Power exec: Long brownouts due to conservation for May elections

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Friday, March 15, 2013


THE long brownouts experienced by some parts of Mindanao since first week of March are reportedly part of the conservation strategies the state-owned electricity generator is implementing to ensure steady supply of power this May 2013 elections, a power official said.

Lawyer Omar Pacilan, spokesperson for the National Power Corporation-Power Sector Assets Liabilities and Management (NPC-Psalm), said the mandate to ensure the region has stable power supply for one week starting May 12 came from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

Pacilan, in an interview over Oblate-ran DXND, said that one of the measures in conserving power is to curtail the load distributed to electric cooperatives and other power firms, including the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco).

The Cotelco is serving at least 98,000 power consumers in North Cotabato.

Since March, the Cotelco is told to maintain at least nine megawatts (MW) daily, which is “way, way below” the power needed to supply the whole area of coverage of the cooperative, according to its spokesperson, Vicente Baguio.

During peak hours, the demand for power in North Cotabato reaches 28 to 32 MW, Baguio said.

"This is the reason why we, in North Cotabato, are again experiencing long brownouts daily," he stressed.

Citing data from the NPC-PSALM, Pacilan said the total daily power demand for Mindanao, especially during peak hours, ranges from 1,150 MW to 1,200MW.

"But because the NPC-PSAM is mandated to conserve power for May 2013 polls, the generation capacity of our power plants is pegged at 940MW to 950MW," explained Pacilan.

The Agus hydroelectric plants located at Lanao province are only generating power from 320MW to 340MW daily.

"During normal period, the Agus plants used to generate power from 450MW to 500MW," Pacilan said.

As part of the conservation strategies, the NPC-PSALM is drawing water from Lake Lanao for the Agus hydro-electric power plants from 70 to 80 cubic meter per second, which, Pacilan explained, would mean a decrease in power generation for the Mindanao grid of about 140-160MW.

The lawyer admitted that the power generation in the region is further reduced by at least 85MW when one of the three units of the Pulangi hydro-electric power plant in Bukidnon province underwent preventive maintenance system since.

Such unit is expected to resume operations, according to Pacilan, either last week of March or first week of April.

The scheduled load curtailment imposed on distribution facilities, including Cotelco, should at all times be followed 'strictly', according to Bambie Capulong, corporate communications officer of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines-Mindanao.

"If a power co-op, for example, has failed to follow the load curtailment schedule, we have no choice but to cut its power," Capulong said.

The so-called "highly-technical" explanations made by the NGCP and the NPC-PSALM about the long brownouts in North Cotabato failed to convince Cotabato 2nd district board member Jose Tejada, chair of the Committee on Energy of the Provincial Board.

"I am not convinced with their explanations about the series of power blackouts in Mindanao, especially in North Cotabato. How can the power firms say that the water elevation in Lake Lanao and in Pulangi is not stable when in truth, and in fact, we had experienced excessive rainfall since December," Tejada said.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 16, 2013.

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