Mindanao power woes worsen as Pulangi, Lake Lanao water levels drop

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/15 April) — It’s the same story every summer.

The water levels in Pulangi River in Bukidnon and Lake Lanao, major sources of hydropower in Mindanao, continued to drop worsening the power situation in some cities in the island already reeling from daily rotational blackouts.

Starting Tuesday, the Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company (Cepalco) whose franchise area covers the city and Jasaan and Villanueva towns in Misamis Oriental, has imposed an eight-hour rotational blackout.

Pagadian City and neighboring Zamboanga Sibugay province were also under severe power curtailment, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines said Wednesday.

To make matters worse for Cagayan de Oro and Pagadian, the newly built 150-megawatt boiler unit 2 of Therma South, a power plant owned by the Aboitiz Power in Davao City, failed to go on line due to damages it sustained during  the Mindanao-wide blackout on Easter Sunday.

Prior to that, Cepalco secured a 20-MW supply from Therma South supposedly to alleviate the critical power situation in Cagayan de Oro.

Mindanao Development Authority Director Romeo Montenegro said water level in the Pulangi River went down to 280.85 meters above sea level way below the baseline limit of 286 meters as of Tuesday.

As a result, Montenegro said the hydropower plant in Pulangi is now capable of producing only 30 MW out of its 250-MW rated capacity.

“It (Pulangi hydropower plant) is not out but it is producing only 30 megawatts because there is no more water except silt,” he said in a text message.

The same thing happened to Lake Lanao where, he said, the prolonged dry spell or mild “El Nino” has reduced the electricity output of the six cascading hydropower plants along the Agus River.

“All Agus plants are running but some units are derated or having reduced output,” he said.

Montenegro said water level in Lake Lanao had plunged to 699.82 meters above sea level.

He said the maximum water level for Agus hydropower plants to operate safely without damaging its machineries is 702 meters above sea level.

“Cepalco’s current load portfolio cannot cover high demand because of the summer heat,” he explained.

Pulangi and Agus River in Lanao provinces supply at least 52 percent of the electricity in Mindanao.

Cepalco Vice President Ralph Paguio said that even with their standby power plants and the independent load producers they did not have enough electricity to cover their entire franchise area.

“This forced us to resort to power curtailment to equitably share whatever supply there is,” Paguio said.

He said they offset the shortfall with power from Cepalco’s coal-fired power plant, Minergy, which produces 42 MW and participating independent load producers in Cagayan de Oro.

But he said still there was still a shortfall of electricity they could not meet.

Cepalco spokesperson Marilyn Chavez said they are only receiving 65 to 70 MW from the NGCP.

Chavez said the city has a daily shortfall of 30 MW.

She said CEPALCO needed a total of 150 MW a day to energize its entire franchise area.

Aboitiz Power communications officer Wilfredo Alfredo III said the electricity supply from Therma South could have eased the situation in Cagayan de Oro.

“The brownouts could have been cut to only two hours not eight hours,” Wilfredo said.

In a statement, Aboitiz Power said the sudden Mindanao-wide blackout on Easter Sunday caused the damage at the Therma South boiler unit 2 which was scheduled to go on line this month.

Therma South President Benjie Cariaso said repairs to the boiler unit 2’s air-preheater as well as the electrostatic precipitator can run up to 10 months delaying its commissioning.

But he added that their unit 1 coal plant is still scheduled to operate by June 2015. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)