It’ll be a hot summer in Mindanao, no thanks to brownouts

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 20 March) – For those in Mindanao, keep those pamaypays (hand fans) ever ready this summer.

This after an official of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) on Wednesday admitted that the power supply situation in the island would remain precarious until new power producers would come in to supply the Mindanao grid, especially this summer season.

“When the power situation in the island would stabilize, that we cannot tell since we’re just transmitting those generated by the power producers,” Milfrance Capulong, NGCP corporate communications officer for Mindanao, said in a telephone interview.

Outages in parts of Mindanao have worsened in the past few weeks to as long as eight hours daily, as in the case of Zamboanga City.

On Monday, residents in nearby General Santos City had been advised to brace for seven hours of brownout daily, from six the past week.

In this city, the seat of government of Region 12 or Soccsksargen Region, a two-and-a-half hour daily rotational brownout is being implemented by the area’s distribution utility.

In 2010, parts of Mindanao at this time of the year also suffered eight-hour daily outages due to dwindling generation capacity at the time by the hydropower plants, which produce half of the island’s power supply, because of declining water dam level as a result of the El Niño or dry spell phenomenon.

Mindanao as of  Wednesday has  power supply shortage of 258 megawatts (MW), with available supply pegged at only 910 MW against the peak demand of 1,168 MW, the NGCP website showed.

“Ever since [2010] there is supply deficiency already,” Capulong said.

The NGCP maintains a daily reserve of 150 MW to maintain the grid’s integrity as required by the Philippine Grid Code, she noted.

But it could “not be dispatched” because that is allotted as a contingency supply just in case any of the power plants in the island would bog down, Capulong added.

The Grid Code establishes and documents the basic rules, requirements, procedures and standards that govern the operation, maintenance and development of the high-voltage backbone transmission system in the Philippines.

Capulong said the power supply deficiency in Mindanao may ease with the looming operation of the 102-MW Iligan diesel-fired power plant, which was recently formally acquired by the Alcantara Group.

Oscar Benedict Contreras III, Alsons Power Business Unit manager for communications and stakeholder relations, said last week that rehabilitation of the Iligan power plant had commenced and that it will go on stream “before the end of summer.”

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration officially announced that the summer season started on March 18, which it expects to last until May.

Meanwhile, Capulong urged power consumers in the island to help ease the shortage by moving their use of appliances from peak hours to non-peak hours.

In General Santos City, Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio has initiated talks with big power consumers such as the malls and the manufacturing sector, including the tuna industry, which the city is known for.

Under the scheme, large establishments would use their generator sets to de-load the demand in the city for use by small consumers, she said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)