Still in the dark 10 days after Mindanao-wide blackout

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 March) – Ten days after the February 27 Mindanao-wide blackout, Mindanawons are still in the dark as to the cause of the power outage, with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and National Power Corporation (NPC) still completing their respective investigations. 

“The NGCP and the National Power Corporation are conducting their own respective investigations and are submitting their findings to the Department of Energy (DOE). We shall release a statement once the investigation is concluded,” Atty. Cynthia Perez-Alabanza, NGCP spokesperson told MindaNews in a text message Sunday morning, March 9.
Mindanao suffered an island-wide power outage at 3:52 a.m. on February 27, lasting for several hours, causing inconvenience to residents and huge economic losses for the business sector.  The Mindanao grid was reported by NGCP to have been fully re-energized by 12:18 noon on the same day.

A press statement from the Department of Energy (DOE) on February 28 said investigation on the root cause of the Feb. 27 system-wide shutdown was underway.

The NGCP, according to the DOE, reported that the Mindanao system demand stood at 785 MW and the supply was 853 MW or a 93 MW reserve when the blackout occurred.

“Initial reports indicate that the tripping emanated from the breaker of the Agus 1 switchyard. The breaker or the switchyard of the power plants is the facility that links the power plant to the transmission network,” the DOE said.

Agus 1 hydroelectric power plant is located in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.

The DOE press release listed in chronological order, the plants that tripped, leading to the system collapse: Agus 1 Unit 2, Unit 1; Agus 2 Unit2, Unit3, Unit1; Agus 7 Unit 2; Mt. Apo Geothermal; Pulangi Units 1 & 2; Agus 7 Unit 1; Agus 4 Units 1, 2 and 3; SPPC; Agus 5 Unit 1, Unit 2; Agus 6 Unit 6; STEAG.

These plants have a total capacity of 677.2 MW.

The NGCP and NPC were tasked by the DOE to “reconcile their data and provide their respective loggers, which contain the recorded sequence of events,” to conduct technical evaluations of condition of the switchyard and the power plants, while Transco was tasked to interpret the results.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said “while we are concerned to determine the root cause, what we immediately did is to bring back power first,” adding that “thorough technical investigation is being undertaken to determine the root cause of the blackout and be able to take immediate actions to prevent similar incident in the future.”

Meanwhile, a press release from the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) on Friday, said the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee (MPMC) in a meeting to assess the situation and determine the cause of the February 27 island-wide blackout, sought the immediate dispatch of capacities from embedded generators of distribution utilities, including newly-installed modular gensets of several electric cooperatives, in response to the alleged supply shortfall.

MPMC was created by Executive Order No. 81 on July 30, 2012 to “spearhead and coordinate the efforts of the national, regional and local governments, and power industry stakeholders to improve the power situation in Mindanao.”

MinDA said MPMC has recommended “quick measures to bridge power supply deficit resulting from the unscheduled shutdown of 210MW STEAG coal-fired power plant” in Misamis Oriental which “remained offline after its plant units 1 and 2 sustained damage to its turbine generating sets.”

“We find it viable to quickly resolve the supply deficit by tapping what is already available in the system, as measures are being exerted to restore affected power plants back online,” the press release quoted Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, MinDA chair, as saying. MinDA heads the secretariat of the MPMC.

Antonino stressed that the system downtime affecting large capacities should be immediately resolved, given the onset of summer when the Agus-Pulangi hydroelectric power complex is expected to have reduced output.

“I understand that the cause of the problem that triggered series of plant trip-offs is still being determined, but such assessment should be done quickly so that corrective actions are put in place to prevent recurrence,” Antonino said.

MinDA said initial technical evaluation indicates Steag may need a “substantial amount of time” to restore two plant units back online. It noted that according to the DOE, the Steag downtime “has brought restoration of Mindanao power supply to only about 80 to 85 percent.”

In Zambaonga City, power outage took eight to nine hours daily from the last week of February to March 5. These days, residents are still suffering from four to five hours brownout daily.

In Kidapawan City, which hosts 100-MW Mt. Apo geothermal power plant, power outage is now four to five hours daily, from two hours daily.  Power generated from the geothermal plant goes directly to the Mindanao Grid; there is no direct line from the Energy Development Corporation’s geothermal plant to the  Cotabato Electrict Company (Cotelco).

Cotelco is dependent on how much power NPC allocates. Right now,  NPC is supplying Cotleco only 11 mw of the 35 mw demand.

In Bukidnon, sometimes the power outage is six hours daily, sometimes four, two and a half. But there was no brownout Saturday.

In Davao City, one-hour rotating brownouts have been imposed by the Davao Light and Power Co.

Davao Light has posted on its website a weekly schedule of the rotating brownouts up to March 30.

It said that the duration of the power outage “will still be for one hour only anytime between the given duration” but “this may extend up to two hours depending on the availability of power supply from the Mindanao grid.”

Although the weekly schedule indicates a period, for example, from 1 to 4 p.m., Davao Light said  “exact time when the outage will begin cannot be determined because it will depend on the level of curtailment imposed by the National Grid Corp. of the Phils. at any given time of the day and the variability of the load of Davao Light relative to time of the day.”

Residents in the cities of Cagayan and Iligan, however, are not experiencing brownouts. The Cagayan de Oro Power and Light Company (Cepalco) has a coal and solar power plant. Iligan and neighboring towns of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur  host the Agus hydroelectric power plants. (MindaNews)