POWER industry players have set another “fighting” timeline to interconnect the Visayas–Mindanao grid by 2022 through the Cebu-Negros-Zamboanga del Norte route.

Mindanao Development Authority Deputy Executive Director Romeo Montenegro said last year another route is now being pursued by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) on the plan to interconnect Mindanao’s grid with the rest of the country after the original plan to connect it through Leyte-Mindanao power interconnection project was deemed not feasible.

“NGCP already applied for a Feasibility Study with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) the feasibility study for another identified viable route (Cebu-Negros-Zamboanga Del Norte),” he said.

In a report, ERC has given NGCP the go signal on the new route, the Visayas-Mindanao Western Route (Cebu-Negros-Zamboanga del Norte) Interconnection Project phase one last February 2016.

NGCP, as the country’s grid operator underscored in its 10-page application the urgency for the Visayas and Mindanao grids to be interconnected pointing out that it would “open more investment opportunities in Mindanao, both in terms of additional power generation and industrial loads.”

Montenegro added once the feasibility study application is approved, the study will run for more than a year.

Apart from the interconnection, the establishment of an energy market in Mindanao is also being pushed as will promote renewable energy sources and equal the level the playing field among power players in the island-region.

The wholesale electricity spot market, Montenegro said, will also serve as a requisite for a viable Visayas-Mindanao power grid interconnection.

“Once interconnected, generating companies can sell beyond Mindanao, we will be part of the larger market which is Luzon and Visayas,” he said.

The long-stalled interconnection project was first conceptualized in 1984, based on a study done by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

In 1996, the National Power Corporation initiated the implementation of the connection project and tapped Norwegian firm Norconsult International AS to complete the feasibility study but was deferred by the National Government.

Fast forward in 2011, the Department of Energy directed the NGCP to review previous studies which resulted to significant conclusions that the proposed Visayas-Mindanao interconnection route from Leyte to Surigao has environmental risks including potential earthquake hazards in the Surigao Strait.

Engineer Legario Galang Jr., chief of Standards and Compliance Monitoring Division of ERC, said in a previous interview, though the plan of interconnecting all grids in the country may have been delayed, still it will be pushed and is not abandoned amid challenges.