6 days and counting: Bukidnon marred by long power outages

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 3 March) – Parts of Bukidnon have been experiencing daily power outages since Feb. 26, a day before Thursday’s Mindanao-wide blackout.

In a March 3 text advisory of the Bukidnon II Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BUSECO), the latter blamed the power interruptions to the unsolved problem in the Mindanao Grid.

The advisory said: “Our power supply contract is still not being followed as the system operator is saying … the Mindanao Grid is critical.”

According to Juancho Chiong, manager of the Manolo Fortich branch of BUSECO, the electric cooperative has contracted power from the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM), the Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc. (TMI) and the local hydro GerPhil Renewable Energy, Inc. (GREI).

He said BUSECO’s peak demand is 23.06 MW, but they are short by about 9 MW.

“PSALM and TMI could no longer provide [additional electricity to] us since Mindanao is short of around 200 MW,” he added.

The BUSECO text advisory also said that the Interim Mindanao Electricity Market (IMEM), where distribution utilities can buy from private generators, is still suspended.

It said: “IMEM was created so that in times of deficiency of supply we could tap new resources. But we noticed that every time there is real and actual deficiency, it is being suspended.”

Chiong added that the results are voluntary load curtailment (VLC) and manual load dropping (MLD), he added.

He said that in VLC, distribution utilities such as BUSECO can schedule rotational brownouts while in MLD, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), a private consortium that allocates power supply, can drop supply without notice.

Mindanao-wide shutdown

Thursday last week, a system-wide power shutdown starting at 3:52 a.m. was felt all over Mindanao. That day NGCP released a statement that they are still determining the cause of the problem.

They also reported power supply was restored in Davao City, General Santos, Zamboanga, Pagadian, Cagayan de Oro and parts of Misamis Oriental by 9:30 a.m. and the rest of Mindanao by 12:18 p.m.

The next day, the Department of Energy said the problem started with the tripping of the switchyard breaker at the Agus 1 hydroelectric plant in Marawi City. The breaker links the power plant to the transmission network.

The DOE statement also listed in chronological order the plants that tripped leading to system collapse: Agus 1 Unit 2, Unit 1; Agus 2 Unit 2, Unit 3, Unit 1; Agus 7 Unit 2; Mt. Apo Geothermal; Pulangi Units 1 and 2; Agus 7 Unit 1; Agus 4 Units 1,2 and 3; SPPC (Southern Philippines Power Corporation in Alabel, Sarangani); Agus 5 Unit 1, Unit 2; Agus 6 Unit 6; STEAG (in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental).

These plants were said to have a total capacity of 677.2 MW.

The same also mentioned that the STEAG State Power, Inc, a coal-powered plant which supplies 210 MW, is “still undertaking assessment of their facilities.”

“There will be 2 to 3 hours of rotating brownouts in certain franchise areas during peak hours (6-9 p.m.), depending on the supply management of the Distribution Utilities (e.g. electric cooperatives),” the statement said.

As of this writing, NGCP, DOE, the National Power Corporation (Napocor) and the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo), still have not released a complete report on the problem while parts of Mindanao continue to experience brownouts due to power deficiency.

In Malaybalay City, power interruptions began a day before the Mindanao-wide blackout on Feb. 27.

The Feb. 26 brownout, however, is a different story.

The Feb. 26 story

In the Strictly Business News Conference on the day of the blackout, officials from BUSECO dispelled rumors that the then two-day brownouts were due to a sabotage of power lines.

Melchie Nacalaban, newly installed manager of BUSECO’s Malaybalay branch, said the brownout on Feb. 26 was part of their preventive maintenance routine,

“A cross-arm (a bracket in a power line pole) in Mamawag area [in Malaybalay] was spotted to have incurred minor damage. So we scheduled the 8-9 p.m. brownout to prevent further damage,” she said.

Engr. Artis Nikki Tortola, chief operating officer of the Bukidnon Sub-transmission Corporation (BSTC), also belied claims that a transmission line in the province was faulty.

“The line is not the problem. It’s the source that’s the issue,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate but it affects not just BUSECO but also FIBECO [First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative, Inc.] and in fact, the whole Mindanao. That’s the extent of the problem due to generation deficiency,” Tortola added.

BSTC is a private consortium of BUSECO and FIBECO, which had bought sub-transmission lines in the province from TransCo in 2011. They now own the Tagoloan-BUSECO 69 kV line, the Kibawe-Maramag-Aglayan-FIBECO 59 kV line and the Maramag-Pulangi lateral lines.

FIBECO is another power distributor servicing the southern half of the province. MindaNews tried to contact FIBECO, but no reply was received yet.

As for the power supply in Bukidnon, BUSECO said in its advisory that the MLDs and VLCs can still continue as long as power issues in Mindanao remain unaddressed.

Currently, BUSECO is shutting power supply alternately in the Aglayan and Lunocan-San Vicente substations for six hours daily from March 1.

The BUSECO advisory said power supply is mainly controlled by the NGCP-System Operations in Iligan City as ordered by the Mindanao Regional Control Center in Cagayan de Oro City.

Aglayan substation serves Malaybalay, Cabanglasan, Lantapan and Talakag while the Lunocan-San Vicente substation serves Baungon, Libona, Malitbog, Manolo Fortich, Sumilao and Impasug-ong.