Shorter brownouts expected in Socoteco II areas by May

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/29 April) — Power consumers here and in the provinces of Sarangani and South Cotabato are finally getting relief this week from the prolonged daily rotating brownouts that has plagued the area in the last two months.

City Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio disclosed over the weekend that the local government has facilitated the signing of new power sales contracts that would allow local distribution utility South Cotabato II Electric Cooperative (Socoteco II) to access around 15 megawatts (MW) of additional power supplies starting May 3.

She said the additional power supplies were projected to effectively cut down by half the area’s continuing seven-hour daily rotating outages.

“Starting May 3, all these contracts will take effect and we expect them to bring down our rotating brownouts by half or possibly even more,” the mayor announced during the grand rally on Saturday of the city’s Liberal Party-Achievers with Integrity Movement (LP-AIM) at the city gymnasium in Barangay Lagao.

The rally coincided with the scheduled meeting of President Benigno S. Aquino III with “local leaders and the community.”

Custodio, who is seeking reelection under the LP-AIM slate, said the city government and the Mindanao Development Authority have initiated negotiations in the past several weeks with various power producers for the augmentation of the Socoteco II’s power supplies, which is currently short by around 40 MW.

Socoteco II, which lists an average daily peak demand of 112 MW, serves this city, the entire Sarangani Province and the municipalities of Tupi and Polomolok in South Cotabato.

The National Power Corporation (Napocor) is only supplying around 43 MW of power to Socoteco II out of their 52 MW contract for this year due to the reduced capacity of its hydroelectric plants in Bukidnon and Lanao del Norte.

The Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc. augments the area’s power requirements by 30 MW but the Socoteco II’s technical services department noted that the firm’s allocation slightly went down earlier due to some technical problems.

Owing to this, Socoteco II was forced to implement rotational brownouts of seven hours in two settings daily for each of its two feeder groupings.

To help address the area’s power shortage, the mayor said the Philippine Economic Zone Authority recently issued a temporary permit that allows companies located in declared special economic zones to sell their unused power allocations to entities outside their areas.

She said the issuance of the permit was an offshoot of the negotiations made by the local government with private companies in economic zones located within or near the city, among them pineapple giant Dole Philippines based in Polomolok town in South Cotabato, to allow Socoteco II to acquire their excess power supplies.

“A number of companies responded positively to this arrangement,” she said.

Custodio said they also submitted a request to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), through chairperson Zenaida Ducut, to cut down or rationalize the processes involved in the approval of power sales contracts in the wake of the power crisis in Mindanao.

On Monday last week, she said the ERC chair personally informed her that the commission has issued a board resolution specifically addressing the matter.

The mayor said such resolution was needed to facilitate the sales contract between Socoteco II and the Alcantara Group’s Southern Philippines Power Corporation for an additional allocation of 3 MW as well as with its Iligan City-based subsidiary Mapalad Power Corporation for another 30 MW of power supplies.

“We’re targeting (Mapalad) to supply an initial 5 MW to Socoteco II by May 3. It will gradually increase until it reaches 30 MW by June,” she said.

To help reduce the area’s power demand, Custodio said the city government has started replacing the compact fluorescent light bulbs presently installed at the city’s streetlights with the energy-efficient light-emitting diode or LED lights.

She said they expect that such initiative will reduce the city government’s power consumption by 1.5 MW. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)