Modular gensets eyed for Mindanao to ease power crisis

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 20 March) – The national government is planning to acquire and deploy modular generator sets here and in other key cities to help offset the impact of the worsening power shortage within the critical Mindanao grid.

Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said Wednesday such move was endorsed by the Department of Energy (DoE) as temporary solution to the continuing prolonged daily rotating brownouts in parts of Mindanao.

She said the DoE gave the recommendation in a recent meeting with President Benigno Simeon Aquino III regarding the power crisis in Mindanao.

“We’re talking and doing negotiations right now with some modular genset suppliers,” Antonino said.

She did not specify the capacity of the modular generator sets and how many units would be deployed but a local power industry executive earlier said a 15 to 20-megawatt (MW) unit would be enough to temporarily cover for the area’s current power supply deficit.

But Antonino said the utilization of the modular generator sets would be very costly so local power consumers should brace for a significant increase in the area’s basic power rates.

“The basic rates will likely be at par with Davao City. Power consumers in Davao have been paying more than P8 per kilowatt-hour (kwh) but they don’t have brownouts there,” she said.

Distribution utility South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II), which serves this city and parts of South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces, charges P6.5185 per kwh for residential consumers.

Socoteco II is presently implementing two sets of daily rotating brownouts lasting seven hours each or a total of 14 hours.

In an advisory, Socoteco II officials said the extended rotating brownouts were due to the reduced power allocation to the area by the National Power Corporation (NPC) and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

Rodolfo Ocat, Socoteco II general manager, said the electric cooperative’s power allocation from the NPC has dropped to 40 MW starting Monday from 41 MW last Friday.

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.

“We’re presently short by 42 MW based on our daily peak demand of 112 MW,” Ocat said.

The NGCP noted in its power situation outlook for Wednesday that Mindanao grid’s system capacity is presently at 910 MW but its system peak has increased to 1,168 MW or a shortage of 258 MW.

Citing an advisory issued by NPC, Ocat said the deficit in the Mindanao grid was mainly caused by the de-rating of the generation capacity of the NPC hydroelectric plants in Lanao del Norte and Bukidnon provinces.

Such move was reportedly caused by the low water inflow and the ongoing maintenance works at the NPC’s Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric plants complexes in preparation for the May 13 midterm national and local elections, he said.

From a combined original generation capacity of 982 MW, the NPC’s Pulangi 4 as well as Agus 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 7 hydroelectric plants have been so far de-rated to 375 MW or down to about 38 percent. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)