Davao City’s brownouts: from 6 to 7.5 hours  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/07 May) — Rotating brownouts here have increased from a maximum of six to 7.5 hours daily as the power supply allocation for Davao Light and Power Company was reduced further, from 120 MW last week to 102 MW starting May 7.

In a statement, Davao Light said its contracted supply with the National Power Corporation (NPC) is 280 MW but NPC through the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) could only supply 102 MW as of May 7.

“This reduction forced Davao Light to increase the length of its scheduled rotating brownouts from 6 hours to 7.5 hours (5 hours during peak hours and 2.5 hours during off peak) effective today,” it said.

It, however, added, that “the actual switch off and switch on time may vary from the announced schedules and may exceed the stated duration depending on the actual load curtailment levels imposed by NGCP on Davao Light, which changes every hour.”

The NGCP website’s power situation outlook as of 6 a.m. of May 7 showed Mindanao’s system capacity at only 822 for a peak demand of 1,211 MW or a deficit of 389 MW.

In other parts of Mindanao, power outages are even longer. In Zamboanga City, brownouts are from 10 to 14 hours.

In Surigao and Ozamiz cities power interruptions as of May 7 were up to six hours; in Malaybalay between 2.5 and five hours.

Although Steag State Power, Inc., operator of the 210-megawatt coal plant in Mindanao which conked out during the Mindanao-wide blackout on February 27, announced that it will resume supplying electricity to theisland’s grid by May 8, the additional power supply is still not enough.

Jerome Soldevilla, Steag communications officer, on Tuesday announced the 105-MW Unit 1 will be online by May 8. It went online at 6:46 p.m. May 7.

The additional 105 MW still leaves Mindanao with a 284-MW deficit.

Unit 2, which is capable of supplying another 105 MW will be back online only on June 1, Soldevilla said.

Privatization, Prioritization

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said he fears that the current power crisis in Mindanao “will once again be used by the Aquino government to even fast track the privatization of the Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Plant Complex.”

“Instead of prioritizing the development of renewable energy, this situation will also be used to justify the entry of more dirty energy sources like coal-fired power plants, which ironically are also heavily water-dependent technology,” Zarate warned in a press statement on May 5.

He said the “failed experiment” should end” and “we return the power sector, this very basic public service, back to the effective control of the state.”

“It is Mindanao that is suffering the most on the current power situation and it showed how precarious still is our power situation under this EPIRA  (Electric Power Industry Reform Act of  2001) regime where the island’s major government power assets were privatized and handed down and sold, some for a song, to a few players,” Zarate said.

He said that Mindanao’s “induced power crisis” started when the government sold its power generating assets, like the 100-MW capacity Power Barge No. 117 in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte and a similar 100-MW capacity Power Barge No. 118 in Maco, Compostela Valley.

Zarate noted that these barges were sold in 2009 “for only $30 Million to the Aboitizes,” a major energy sector player in Mindanao which owns Davao among others, while the 96-MW Mt. Apo Geothermal Plant, was sold to the Lopez-controlled Energy Development Corporation.

Pay more or live with brownouts

“This privatization effectively made Mindanawons virtual hostages of the power cartel. And, this is made even worst by the President’s indifferent declaration two years ago, offering Mindanawons with only two options: pay even higher electricity or suffer more rotating brownouts,” Rep, Zarate said, recalling President Aquino’s statement during the April 13, 2012 Mindanao Power Summit in Davao City.

“Worse still, despite these problems and utter failure, the government still wants to further our sufferings by implementing the Interim Mindanao Electricity Market (IMEM), the same corporate scheme that is one of the main cause of the high power prices in Luzon and the Visayas, the same greedy mechanism used by power players to game the electricity industry, to the utter detriment of the hapless consumers,” he said.

At the Mindanao Power Summit in 2012, President Aquino said:  “You have to pay more because this is the reality of economics, not the rhetoric of politics. Everything has its price. We have to pay a real price for a real service. There are actually just only two choices: pay a little more for energy, or live with the lack of energy and the continuation of the rotating brownouts.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)


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