Mindanao grid on yellow alert again

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 7 Jan) – The Mindanao grid is back on yellow alert status on Thursday, a day after the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) warned of possible grid collapse due to the insufficient power supply and the bombing of Tower 25 in Lanao del Sur last Christmas eve that isolated the Agus 1 and Agus 2 hydroelectric power plants.

The transmission company usually declares yellow alert status when “contingency reserve is less than the capacity of the largest synchronized unit of the grid.”

On Wednesday, Mindanao grid was placed on “red alert” when the reserve went zero.

In an interview on Wednesday, NGCP Mindanao spokesperson Milfrance Capulong explained the safe levels would mean having a contingency reserve higher than the biggest capacity online because if any of the lower power plants bog down, then they can simply tap the excess to prevent brownouts.

Last December 24, Tower 25, located at Ditsaan-Ramain in Lanao del Sur, was bombed by unidentified men, which resulted in the isolation of Agus 1 and Agus 2 that supply the grid with 150 megawatts.

She said restoration works cannot be implemented on Tower 25 after the land owners – Johnny Sambitori, Intan Sambitori and Naguib Sambitor – refused NGCP personnel entry to the location of the transmission tower.

Capulong said the land owners demanded that the National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), the company in charge of generating power, to pay still unsettled payment for the land long ago.

“The line has been unserviceable since Christmas Eve when it was bombed by unidentified lawless elements,” she said.

Capulong said NGCP had met with officials from the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), National Transmission Commission (TransCo), and the local government “to explore ways how to access Tower 25.”

Davao, GenSan to be affected

She said that Davao City and General Santos are “in real danger of being cut off from the bulk supply” if the remaining line that delivers power from the Agus Hydro Complex, which is the Maramag-Bunawan 138-KV line, will be destroyed.

“If the said line is in any way compromised, no power will flow from the remaining Agus hydro facilities to south of Mindanao where the bulk of power demand is located. The resulting imbalance between the North and South portions of Mindanao may cause the system to collapse,” she said.

The installed capacity of the decades-old Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Complex is 827.2 MW, which supplies more than half of the island’s power source, while the rest is a mix of coal, diesel, and geothermal.

16 towers bombed

Capulong added that a total of 16 towers were bombed in 2015, of which nine were toppled and seven were damaged, in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Cotabato City, and Maguindanao.

She said the rest of the towers, except for Tower 25, have been restored with the construction of emergency restoration structure (ERS), a temporary foundation made of steel that is propped up to deliver the power from the sources.

Other than Tower 25, Towers 19 and 20, Tower 95, Tower 68, Tower 168, and Tower 153 were all bombed in December 2015.

The latest was Tower 4, bombed on December 28 at Nangka municipality in Baloi, Lanao del Norte.

“The restoration can only commence when the [Armed Forces of the Philippines] is able to clear the site threats,” she said.

She said this was the worst in seven years since 2009, the year TransCo turned over the management and operation of nationwide transmission system to NGCP.

“NGCP is appealing to the public, local and national government, PNP and AFP to help monitor the safety of the towers so that transmission services remain uninterrupted. The company also appeals to local community leaders to help identify the perpetrators of the bombings, and to negotiate with uncooperative landowners, to prevent longer power interruptions,” she said.