Wednesday, March 7, 2012

News Update Longer power outages loom in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Mindanao is set to experience longer blackouts, particularly with the onset of summer, due to the island’s continuing power shortage.
Mindanao is largely dependent on hydroelectric power generated mainly from Pulangi River in Bukidnon and Lake Lanao in Marawi City, whose water levels have gone down beyond normal.
The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has already implemented load curtailment as early as two months ago with the shortage in supply of hydroelectric power.
The load curtailment will allow the NGCP to still distribute power to different utilities in Mindanao but this will still be inadequate, resulting in power outages of up to 18 hours a day in some parts of the island.
Former senator Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier warned of “catastrophic” blackouts, as Mindanao’s power deficit has deteriorated to 10 percent of peak system demand versus only five percent a week ago.
“This implies that the previous two- to four-hour daily blackouts in many parts of Mindanao have started to worsen to four- to six-hour outages,” Zubiri said.
Malacañang has vowed to meet with power stakeholders and local government officials in Mindanao to address the lingering power shortage.
As of yesterday, the NGCP placed Mindanao’s gross power deficit at 154 megawatts, as the island only had a system capacity of 1,099 MW as against its actual peak of 1,253 MW.
As of March 2, Zubiri, citing NGCP figures, said Mindanao’s gross power deficit stood at 124 MW, with peak system demand of 1,244 MW and available generating capacity of only 1,120 MW.
Last Feb. 24, the island’s power deficiency stood at only 67 MW, he said.
“We are appealing to the Department of Energy to find ways to avert the further deterioration of Mindanao’s already harsh power deficit,” Zubiri said.
Even if the government manages to temporarily plug Mindanao’s 124-MW shortfall, he said the island still faces the risk of prolonged blackouts due to lack of standby power, or gross reserves.
“We have a generating capacity deficit. We do not only have enough power to meet peak daily requirements, we also do not have any extra supplies needed to kick in once a power plant conks out for any reason, or is shut down for preventive maintenance,” he said.
Zubiri earlier warned of crippling eight-hour daily blackouts in Mindanao when the weather heats up by April, if the island’s massive power deficit is not addressed.
In a letter to Energy Secretary Jose Almendras, Zubiri urged the provisional deployment of additional power barges to boost supply in the affected areas.
He also sought the use of the P2-billion renewable energy trust fund to grant perks to entities willing to bring in new biomass, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and/or ocean power supplies, exclusively for Mindanao, in six to 18 months.
Zubiri is the author of the Renewable Energy Law of 2008 and former chairman of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources.
Zubiri also batted for the energy sector’s retention in the Investment Priorities Plan of the Board of Investments, in order to attract fresh capital needed to quickly beef up Mindanao’s power supply. – With Roel Pareño - By Edith Regalado