Power outages in Socoteco II areas now 6 hours daily

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 March) — Already reeling from the three to four-hour daily rotating brownouts in the last two months, power consumers here and in parts of South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces are in for the worst power outage in the area in the last two years.

Rodolfo Ocat, general manager of power utility South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II), said Friday they have extended the outages to six hours as Mindanao’s power shortage plunged to 309 megawatts (MW) due to the declining generation capacity of the National Power Corporation’s hydroelectric plants.

He said such deficiency translates to around 41 MW of power supply shortage for the area based on its daily peak demand of 112 MW.

“Socoteco II has to manage a very meager supply of 41 MW from NPC and 30 MW from Therma Marine Inc. as against the franchise area’s peak demand of 112 MW, or a total shortage of 41 MW,” Ocat said.

Socoteco II serves this city, the entire Sarangani Province and the municipalities of Tupi and Polomolok in South Cotabato.

Ocat said they have divided the area’s 45 feeder stations into groups, with each getting three hours of brownouts in the morning and another three in the afternoon.

In an advisory posted on its website, Socoteco II said the six-hour rotating outage was scheduled only for Friday but stressed that the NPC or NGCP (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines) has not issued any pronouncement if situation will improve during the weekend.

The NGCP noted in its power situation outlook for Friday that Mindanao grid’s system capacity has dropped to 825 MW and with its system peak pegged at 1,134 MW or short by 309 MW.

Ocat said an advisory issued by the NGCP cited that the significant drop in the island’s power supplies was caused by the decreased output of the NPC’s hydroelectric plants based in Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte provinces.

“There was a de-rating of the capacity of the hydroelectric plants or the NPC reduced their generation capacities from their original capacities,” he said.

On Thursday, Ocat said the island’s power deficiency was only at 171 MW but the rotating brownouts in the area stretched past four hours due to the NGCP’s request of temporary dropoff by one hour and 30 minutes to facilitate the scheduled maintenance works for its transformers in the area.

“This clearly shows that we have no control as far as the power supplies and their allocations are concerned. We only manage what is given to us (by NPC and NGCP),” he said.

The six-hour rotating brownout was so far the worst for Socoteco II’s franchise area in the last two years.

In the months preceding the May 2010 national and local elections, the area was hit by daily rotating brownouts stretching nine to 12 hours as a mild dry spell then that affected parts of Mindanao caused a significant drop in the levels of water resources running the NPC’s Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric plants.

The two hydroelectric complexes have a combined rated capacity of around 900MW but were eventually reduced then to about half as a result of the dry spell.

Last month, Socoteco II was forced to extend the area’s daily rotating outages from three to four hours also due to the decreased generation capacity of the NPC’s hydroelectric plants.

It said the problem then was mainly caused by the lower water inflow coming from the water resources supplying the two hydroelectric plant complexes.

Manuel Yaphockun, past president of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., earlier raised concerns over the worsening daily power outages saying a number of local businesses were barely surviving due to the heavy losses that they incur as a result of the problem.

He urged the government, local officials as well as the electric cooperative to find ways to ease the situation before it further worsens. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)