Power outages worsen in Mindanao

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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

LAKE Lanao and Pulangi river reached low-record levels Tuesday forcing power utilities to enforce six to 10 hour rotational power outages in most major cities in Mindanao, including Cagayan de Oro which brownouts lasted to seven and a half hours.

Ralph Paguio, vice president of the Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company (Cepalco), said water levels in Lake Lanao has dropped below 699.4 meters Monday, dangerously close to critical level of 699.15 meters compelling Cepalco, Cagayan de Oro’s major power distributor, to impose longer brownouts starting also Tuesday.

“It’s getting worse,” said Marilyn Chavez, senior and customer and community relations manager of Cepalco as the power distributed by the National Power Corporation (NPC) dipped from 70 megawatts (MW) to 30 MW, making the rotating brownouts longer from four hours to seven hours and 30 minutes.


Cepalco’s normal power requirement is about 140 MW. The distributed power to Cepalco has been lowered because of the worsening Mindanao-wide power shortage.

“Before we can switch on the power, we have to get clearance from National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to switch on [the power],” she said.

She also said that the brownout in Bulua here on the evening of May 5th that lasted for six hours had been cleared from NGCP before it was switched on to prevent jeopardizing the power of Mindanao.

“Cepalco would like to caution customers that the actual switch off and on time may vary from the announced schedules depending on the actual load curtailment levels imposed by NGCP on Cepalco which changes every hour,” read a Cepalco statement emailed to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro Tuesday.

Paguio said Cagayan de Oro needs 140 MW a day, but the NGCP and Napocor could only supply around 30MW.

Pulangui drying up

The Pulangi river in Bukidnon, Mindanao’s second major source of electricity, has also been drying up forcing the NPC to shut down two of the three turbines in the Pulangi hydro plant.

Brian Diosma of Mindanao Authority (MinDa) Power Monitoring Committee said the Pulangi hydro plant, which normally generates around 265 MW, is only producing 60 MW as of Tuesday.

Diosma said the Mindanao electricity supply is currently experiencing a 300 MW deficit.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, Diosma said a 12-hour rotational brownouts have been imposed in parts of North Cotabato especially in the towns of Midsayap, Pikit and Aleosan.

Davao and General Santos cities are experiencing six-hour daily brownouts, according to the data from MinDa.

Diosma said only the province of Agusan del Sur which bought a modular generating set is employing lesser period of brownouts. He said Bayugan city and other towns in Agusan del Sur are only experiencing two hours of brownouts every day.

Extra source of power

“The entry of Steag on Thursday will be the only welcome news. The power situation really needs the extra source of electricity,” Paguio said.

Steag State Power Inc. (SPI), which operates a 210 MW coal plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental, announced that its Unit 1 power generator will start supplying 105 MW to the Mindanao grid on Thursday.

Jerome Soldevilla, SPI communications officer, said the second unit of power generator is also capable of supplying another 105 MW, and will resume operations on June 1.

Both generators of SPI conked out and got damaged during a Mindanao-wide fault on February 27.

Soldevilla said SPI’s re-entry on Thursday would add 10 percent to the supply of electricity in Mindanao.

“We hope our entry can decrease the brownouts by two hours,” Soldevilla said.

Chavez said the SPI’s going online again is hoped to reduce the number of hours of the power outages and would bring back the four-hour brownout.

“We still have to evaluate the effects of the additional power,” she added.

Cepalco has other power source like its 42 MW Minergy plant and still looking for other sources.

Cepalco will continue to make schedules of the rotating brownouts and make announcements in the coming days.

Diosma said MinDa is also keeping an eye at the warning of PAGASA of an impending El Nino.

He said the Department of Argiculture has been requested to conduct cloud seeding operations over Lake Lanao and Pulangi river.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on May 07, 2014.

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