Power ‘red alert’ in Mindanao
By Edith Regalado
The Philippine Star
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The power situation in Mindanao has reached “red alert” status as the generation deficit posted its biggest single day rise on Tuesday, to 358 megawatts.
The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said the power deficiency is expected to worsen in the coming days as the El Niño phenomenon continues to wreak havoc across the country, destroying crops and drying up water sources for hydroelectric plants, particularly Lake Lanao in Lanao del Sur and Pulangi River in Bukidnon.
The NGCP said Luzon so far has zero generation deficiency while the Visayas region had a 38-MW deficiency.
Mindanao’s generation deficiency of 358 MW represented a sharp spike from the previous 183 MW. Mindanao is highly dependent on hydroelectric plants for its power needs.
Luzon has a total reserve of 662 MW, while demand in the Visayas is at 1,167 MW against an available capacity of 1,129-MW.
NGCP said Mindanao has a total capacity of 842 MW as against the latest peak demand of 1,200 MW.
NGCP-Mindanao spokesperson Bambie Capulong attributed the deficiency to the reduced capabilities of hydroelectric plants due to low water levels at reservoirs.
Authorities reported 80 percent and 60 percent reduction in the capacities of the Agus and Pulangi plants, respectively.
Capulong said Agus is now running at 120 MW out of total rated capacity of 727 MW, while Pulangi is running at 100 MW out of total rated capacity of 255 MW.
NGCP also said the unavailability of the 35-MW Iligan diesel power plant has contributed to Mindanao’s power woes.
Rotating blackouts have already been implemented in various parts of Mindanao, including Davao City.
In some parts of the island, the daily blackouts last for as long as five hours. Capulong said consumers are advised to coordinate with distribution utilities or electric cooperatives in their areas for information on schedules and areas to be affected by the power interruptions.
More power sources
With the worsening power situation in Mindanao, the Department of Energy (DOE) said power sources other than hydroelectric plants may have to be set up in the island.
DOE senior technical specialist Norman Vincent Martirez said the Mindanao grid will need about 2,500 MW additional capacity up to 2030.
The estimate does not include additional capacities from planned projects of Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Co., Aboitiz’s Hedcor Inc. and Energy Development Corp.
The DOE said it is keen on facilitating the entry of power investors in Mindanao.
“We need the entry of these much-needed investments before it is too late,” the DOE said.
“We also have to think of long-term solutions to allow us to solve these problems of power shortage,” Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said.
Reyes also said he has ordered an investigation into allegations of price manipulation at the wholesale electricity spot market or WESM. Reyes told a press briefing that he has directed WESM operator Philippine Electricity Market Corp. to probe the unusually sharp single day spike of P68 per kilowatt-hour in WESM prices on Feb. 11, 12, and 13.
The proposal to give President Arroyo emergency powers to deal with the energy crisis “may not be necessary,” Speaker Prospero Nograles said yesterday.
“She can always declare a state of calamity in case of power failure and authorize the use of calamity funds in the budget without any more appropriations,” he said.
He said Malacañang and DOE’s Reyes have enough powers under the law to address the energy problem.
“That is, if they study their built-in powers and know their law on the subject matter,” he added.
Nograles, who is running for mayor of Davao City, was commenting on the proposal of Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City for Congress to convene in a special session and give Mrs. Arroyo special powers to deal with the energy crisis.
The Speaker reiterated that if the President calls Congress to a special session, he could not guarantee quorum since most members of the House of Representatives are already in their districts campaigning or preparing for their campaign.
Rodriguez made the proposal in last week’s House energy committee hearing in which officials of the National Power Corp. and the NGCP testified that Mindanao was already experiencing a power shortage.
Meanwhile, Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. asked the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative yesterday to abandon its plan to put up a coal-fired power plant in the city.
Revilla explained that solar panels and accessories are expensive but are durable and require little maintenance.
For a long-term solution, Revilla batted for the use of renewable energy.
“It should be promoted rather than putting up a fossil-fuel power station,” he said.
Revilla said research has shown that people living near coal-fired plants are more prone to respiratory illness.
Earlier, Betty Marquez, spokesperson for the local electric cooperative, said her group is seriously considering putting up a coal-fired plant.
She said the power they get from the NGCP is not enough.
There are currently nine coal-fired power plants in the country. With Donnabelle Gatdula, Jess Diaz, and Christina Mendez