Steag behind Feb. 27 blackout, Napocor confirms

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 15 March) – A ranking official of the National Power Corp. (Napocor) confirmed that the Steag State Power, Inc.’s (SPI) indeed caused the blackout that affected most of Mindanao last Feb. 27.

Engr. Rudy Brioso, Napocor vice president for Mindanao, told MindaNews via telephone Friday that Steag’s reduced power generation situation was behind the power outage and at the same time defended that it was not due to the tripping of an Agus power plant in Lanao.

The state-run National Transmission Corp. (TransCo), through its president Rolando T. Bacani, also made the same announcement to media in Manila on Friday. He was quoted as saying that the reduction of Steag’s generation caused the Agus plants to trip even though the Steag, in a statement, said their move was “not expected to cause a cascading failure and tripping of other power plants and the collapse of the entire grid.”

Brioso also revealed that the Napocor’s Pulangi IV hydro plant in Bukidnon, which originally generated 255 megawatts, has been generating only 80 MW since the third week of February because of the lowering of the water level at the Pulangi River as summer approaches.

He said only two of the three turbines are now operating at only 40 MW each. The other turbine, Brioso said, has been put on “maintenance” status.

Each of the three generation units, which were commissioned in 1985, has a full capacity of 85 megawatts.

The Department of Energy has issued on March 4, 2014 a department circular directing the operation of all existing generation units to increase power supply amidst the shortage.

The NGCP earlier said that as of Friday last week, the Mindanao grid’s system capacity is only 938 MW, or 334 MW short of its system peak.

Brioso said that the water level in the Pulangi on Friday was measured at 282 meters above sea level (masl), just two meters above the critical level of 280 masl.

He stressed that when water level goes down to the critical level, they will stop operating.

Full capacity to operate at 255 MW, he noted, requires at least 284.5 masl. In February, the power plant was able to generate from 150 to 200 megawatts, he added.

Brioso said it is important for the government to be able to control siltation in the Pulangi River by regulating expansion of agricultural plantations. He said together with reforestation, it is important that these agricultural plantations mitigate siltation from their areas.

He said dredging the river could help address the problem, too.