THE ROTATING power outages in Mindanao are expected to ease by June, when the Steag coal-fired power plant that supplies 200 megawatts to the power grid shall have been fully restored, Presidential Communications Secretary Hermi–nio Coloma Jr. said on Sunday.
In an e-mail message to The Manila Times, Coloma explained that the power crisis that has gripped the region was caused by the supply disruption in February 2014 when the Steag plant lost its entire 200MW capacity.
Quoting Romeo Montenegro, director for investment and promotion and public affairs of the Mindanao Development Authority, he said the problem was aggravated by dwindling water levels of Lake Lanao and Pulangi River, “thereby limiting the capacities of Agus-Pulangi Complex to just 30 to 40 percent.”
“With the restoration of entire 200MW of Steag Coal-Fired Power Plant by June, the supply scenario would be expected to ease and significantly reduce extent of rotating brownouts in many areas in Mindanao,” Coloma said.
The Palace official was reacting to allegations by business and religious leaders in Mindanao who blamed the government for failing to address the power shortage.
Zamboanga City Chamber of Commerce President Cholo Soliven gave a stinging criticism of the national government during a radio interview on Saturday, saying it was not doing enough to resolve the power problem in the South.
“Why didn’t the government do anything when it knew the power crisis was coming? The government did not plan for this crisis well,” Soliven said.
Brownouts in Davao and Cagayan de Oro cities last from six hours to seven hours, while the power outage in Zamboanga City lasts 10 hours every day.
According to some estimates, businesses in Mindanao are losing close to P200 million a day because of the outages.
But based on Montenegro’s report, Coloma said there were measures taken by the government to address the power problem as of May 10, 2014.
“The government fully understands the power situation in Mindanao and has exerted since 2012 both immediate and long-term measures to address supply deficiency that resulted in rotational brownouts,” Montenegro said in his report,
“At the outset, it must be pointed out that the extent of rotating brownouts in Mindanao vary per area, depending on the contracted capacity and embedded measures of electric cooperatives and private distribution utilities,” he added.
According to him, the issuance of Executive Order 81 in 2012 created the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee (MPMC) to spearhead efforts to put forward measures to reduce brownouts and stabilize power supply.
The MPMC provided the venue for discussions among Mindanao power stakeholders.
In response to the recommendations put forward during the Mindanao Power Summit in April 2012, the MPMC ensured the immediate rehabilitation of Agus-Pulangi complex with the allocation of P4.96 billion; allotted P1.2 billion for Agus 1 and 2, particularly for the flood control project in order to increase the hydro power plants’ combined generating capacity by 30-40 MW without flooding the communities in the Balo-i area; and also allotted P2.6 billion for the rehabilitation and replacement of components of Agus 6 in order to increase its generation output by 19 MW and extend the plants’ economic life for another 30 years.
Commissioned in 1953, Agus 6 is the oldest plant in the country. The plant’s rehabilitation will be completed in February 2016 while work on Agus 1 is expected to be finished in April 2016.
Montenegro said the MPMC also endorsed to the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) the proposal of the National Power Corp. (Napocor) to allocate P265 million for dredging operations in Pulangi 4 to address the siltation problem and increase its generating output. Bidding has just been completed.
“Another [Napocor] proposal for Pulangi uprating 4 was endorsed by MPMC particularly the installation of hydromatrix or hybrid integrated turbine generator assembly which will tap the flow of water at the headrace canal intake of Pulangi 4. This is expected to generate additional 16MW over and above Pulangi 4’s 250MW capacity. Proposal currently being studied by PSALM for possible undertaking by a private proponent,” Coloma also quoted Montenegro as saying.
“Perhaps, it can be noted that all of these funding approvals and subsequent implementation of Agus-Pulangi uprating and rehabilitation happened only during this administration,” he noted.
“Repair also takes time as schedules need to be programmed accordingly without causing major supply deficiency/grid disruption because hydro plants will have to be shut down for maintenance/repair work to proceed,” it was pointed out.
The officials said the power situation in the region will greatly improve next year when the Aboitiz and Alsons power plants join the grid, producing an additional 500 megawatts.
To prevent another power crisis, Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan. Muna party-list urged the government to invest in new power plants.
He said the country should tap alternative sources of energy, particularly renewable ones like solar and wind power, and natural gas deposits in the Reed Bank and Benham Rise.
“We now need to build the power plants to harness these energy sources because our power requirements are increasing,” he said told The Manila Times in a text message.
The senior deputy minority leader said power generators will not build power plants sufficient to meet future demand so the government must take the initiative.
“Epira does not prohibit government from putting up power plants so they can start building [them]now while supporting moves to repeal [it],” he said, referring to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.
Some lawmakers and businessmen have been pushing for the amendment of the law in light of successive power rate hikes since last year.
With Reina Tolentino