• Mindanao blackout: Old power facilities to blame

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    A seven-hour power outage that struck the entire Mindanao island at dawn on Sunday could recur considering the state of power facilities in the region, the Department of Energy (DOE) said.

    On Sunday, darkness engulfed Mindanao as the seven-hour early morning blackout affected all the cities and provinces connected to the Mindanao grid. These include Davao City, Cotabato City, Cagayan de Oro City, Zamboanga City, Gen. Santos, Koronadal, Kidapawan, Digos, Valencia, Malaybalay, Pagadian and Zamboanga.

    Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla, on Monday, said the possibility of another massive power outage taking place in the southern main island is inevitable as some of the existing power facilities there are antiquated.

    “It is still there but it can be lessened [threat of power outage]. . . let us first evaluate where the next flash-points are and address them then I will give you an assurance,” Petilla told reporters during a briefing at the DOE headquarters in Taguig City (Metro Manila).

    Petilla said they have to conduct a thorough assessment of the state of the power grid to determine what really happened before giving any assurance that the incident would not happen again.

    He said that he has also directed the National Transmission Corp. (Transco) to identify which areas are most prone to power outages.

    The grid operator, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), has also launched its own probe of the incident to prevent such occurrence in the future.

    To lessen power outages in the future, Petilla directed Transco replace equipment that are already antiquated and undependable.

    Apart from aging power facilities, NGCP spokesperson Cynthia Alabanza said the location of plants is also important to maintain power stability.

    “Everything is in the north so that when that part becomes isolated, the new plants coming in located in the south, could stabilize the situation,” she added.

    At the same time, Alabanza ruled out the possibility of sabotage as the cause of the massive outage in Mindanao.

    “There are no indications that this was a security issue so it seems that this was a technical issue,” she said.

    Based on initial findings, Petilla said, the power outage occurred when a conductor was detached at the Agus 7 switchyard this affected the capacitive voltage transformer (CVT) which in turn caused a ground fault.

    “Just like in any other faults that we experienced, the line was cut and hit the CVT,” said Petilla, adding that the CVT was installed 1975.

    “The upgrading of Agus 6 and 7 switchyard, which is now being controlled by NGCP, is already 88 percent. They maintain it now, we turned it over in 2010, CVT was replaced but upgrades are ongoing,” said Napocor president Gladys Sta. Rita.

    The Transco team is set to submit its report to the DOE about the incident on April 15.

    The NGCP said peak demand in Mindanao is at 1,200 megawatts (MW).

    “That’s the demand side and we are also having a generation of 1,300 MW. We also have some embedded generators in Mindanao with the coops and utilities,” said the NGCP.

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