NPC says long brownouts in Mindanao to save power for May polls

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/15 March) — The long brownouts experienced in parts of Mindanao since early March are reportedly meant to conserve energy for the May 13 polls, an official of the National Power Corp. said.

Omar Pacilan, spokesperson for the NPC-Power Sector Assets Liabilities and Management (PSALM), said the directive to ensure the region has stable power supply for one week starting May 12 came from the Commission on Elections and the Department of Energy.

In an interview over radio station DXND, Pacilan said that one of the measures they have adopted to conserve power is to curtail the load assigned to power distribution firms, including the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco).

Cotelco is serving some 98,000 power consumers in North Cotabato.

Since March, Cotelco has been told to maintain nine megawatts daily, which is “way, way below” the power needed to supply the whole area of coverage of the cooperative, according to its spokesperson, Vicente Baguio.

During peak hours, the demand for power in North Cotabato reaches 28 to 32 MW, Baguio said.

“This is the reason why we in North Cotabato are again experiencing long brownouts daily,” he stressed.

Citing data from the NPC-PSALM, Pacilan said the total daily power demand for Mindanao, especially during peak hours, ranges from 1,150 MW to 1,200MW.

“But because the NPC-PSALM is mandated to conserve power for the May 2013 polls, the generation capacity of our power plants is pegged at 940MW to 950MW,” explained Pacilan.

At present, the Agus hydropower plants in the Lanao provinces are only generating between 320MW and 340MW daily.

“During normal period, the Agus plants used to generate power from 450MW to 500MW,” Pacilan said.

As part of the conservation strategies, the NPC is drawing water from Lake Lanao for the Agus hydropower plants at a volume of 70 to 80 cubic meters per second, which would mean a decrease of 140-160MW in power generation for the Mindanao grid, he explained.

The NPC normally draws 110 cubic meters per second from the lake.

Pacilan added that power generation in the island is further reduced by at least 85MW when one of the three units of the Pulangi hydropower plant in Bukidnon province underwent preventive maintenance since Monday.

He said the unit will resume operations either on the last week of March or first week of April.

Distribution utilities should strictly follow the load curtailment imposed on them otherwise their power supply would be cut, said Bambie Capulong, corporate communications officer of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines-Mindanao.

But Cotabato provincial board member Jose Tejada said he was not convinced by the “highly technical explanations” made by NPC-PSALM on the long brownouts in the province.

“How can the power firms say that the water elevation in Lake Lanao and in Pulangi is not stable when in truth, and in fact, we had experienced excessive rainfall since December,” Tejada, chair of the provincial board’s committee on energy, said. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)