Loans available for electric co-ops’ acquisition of modular gensets

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 March) — The national government is set to start a loan scheme that will allow electric cooperatives in Mindanao to acquire their own modular generator sets to help offset the impact of the prolonged daily rotating brownouts.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla told participants of a regional power forum here on Wednesday afternoon that President Benigno Aquino III has approved the loan program as an alternative solution to the long brownouts triggered by the worsening power shortage in the Mindanao grid.

Petilla and Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) met with the President in Malacanang last Monday to discuss the Mindanao power crisis and set the strategies to resolve the problem.

Petilla said the the DoE will provide the funds to the National Electrification Administration (NEA) “which will then offer them to the electric cooperatives by way of (soft) loans.”

Under the scheme, electric cooperatives may avail of the loan but should only utilize them to purchase fuel-fired modular generator sets, he said.

Petilla added the loan will be based on the need and capacity of the generator units that will be acquired by the electric cooperative.

He said they will offer a grace period of two years for the loan repayment and borrowers will only be required to pay for the interest during the period.

After the two-year grace period, borrowers will be required to pay for the interest and the loan principal, he said.

“But they will have the option to waive their loan repayments by returning the generator units to NEA after two years,” Petilla explained.

He said the projected monthly interest payment for the loan may reach around P150,000 per megawatt (MW) of the acquired generator sets.

Based on their estimates, he said consumers will have to pay an additional P3 per kilowatt-hour for eight hours of average daily use of the generator sets.

Petilla said DoE is presently talking with five suppliers of modular generator sets for the possible link-up with the electric cooperatives.

Aside from the NEA loan, electric cooperatives have an option to directly deal with the suppliers through direct purchase or a lease agreement, he said.

Citing their initial discussions with executives of Monark Equipment Corp., the sole authorized dealer of Caterpillar generators in the country, Petilla said the monthly lease or rental fee may reach P1.4 million per MW of the generator set.

Petilla clarified that the loan is scheme is just an additional option for the crisis-hit electric cooperatives in Mindanao.

He said they will discuss the specific details of the loan scheme with officials and representatives of Mindanao electric cooperatives in a meeting in Manila on Monday.

“It will still be the choice of the cooperatives (whether to avail of the loan or not). We will not push for this unless they’re willing to do it,” he said.

Distribution utility South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative, which serves this city and parts of Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces, had signified willingness to acquire modular generator sets to ease the long daily rotating brownouts in the area.

The electric cooperative is presently implementing two sets of daily rotating brownouts lasting seven hours each or a total of 14 hours daily due to the power shortage, which was mainly attributed to the declining generation capacity of the National Power Corporation’s (NPC) hydroelectric plants in Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte.

Socoteco II’s technical services department noted that the area’s power deficit has so far dropped to 33 MW from last week’s 42 MW due to increased generation capacity of the NPC’s hydroelectric plants.

From 40 MW last week, it said the NPC and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) increased the area’s power allocation to 49 MW because of the improved situation.

Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc. augments the area’s power supplies by 30 MW based on a power sales agreement that it earlier signed with Socoteco II. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews