CEBU CITY -- Leaders of Cebu’s business community are hoping for quick solutions to a 200-megawatt shortfall in power supply for the Visayas, which started last Saturday.

It will be “very inconvenient” and “uncomfortable” for businesses, especially those that operate 24 hours like large-scale manufacturers and business process outsourcing (BPO) companies.

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“We would like to be very clear that this power shortage is unacceptable, and we hope that the supply will stabilize soon,” said Eric Mendoza of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), which represents at least 172 companies.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) announced the 200-megawatt power shortage and explained it needed 10 days to conduct preventive maintenance on the Mahanag-dong geothermal power plant in Leyte. The period started last January 30.

Belinda Canlas, NGCP corporate communications manager, said the shortfall will be felt during the weekday peak hours.

Other major power plants in Cebu will also be unavailable. The 50-megawatt Cebu Thermal Power Plant 1 is not operating because it is under maintenance until February 15.

Two gas turbines in the Naga Power Plant Complex, capable of generating 44 megawatts, are reportedly not operating because of the failure to deliver fuel.

To cope with the shortage, the distributor Visayan Electric Company Inc. (Veco) will have to implement rotating one-hour brownouts, said Ethel Natera, corporate communications manager.

“We will ask our interruptible load program participants to deload from the Veco system to help minimize the power supply shortage,” Natera said. She referred to a program that requires participating companies to use their own generators or plants at certain hours to ease the pressure on the Visayas grid.

The peak hours in Veco’s area are from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., because of the operations of factories and offices. Veco’s daily power demand hovers at 350 megawatts, of which a tenth comes from Toledo Power Corp. and NGCP.

“We also call on all customers to help minimize the power supply shortage by undertaking energy conservation measures. Everyone should practice the wise use of electricity,” Natera said.

Since 2007, officials in Cebu’s power industry have warned that power supply will be critical from 2008 to early 2010, because of the lack of new plants.

The Abovant plant is expected to be completed late this year, while the 200-megawatt power plant complex of Salcon and the Korean Electric Power Corp. is not scheduled to operate until next year.

In a separate interview, Dickson Lim of the Cebu Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce Inc. said the regular power outages will force foreign investors to think twice about coming to Cebu.

“In Cebu, we are hard hit, as power is vital to major businesses here,” added Lim.

Talisay City Vice Mayor Alan Bucao, a former head of the Talisay City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the shortage will be a big blow to business.

Although some large establishments in Talisay City have already acquired back-up generators, he said this will only be temporary solutions.

Bucao is also asking Veco for a weekly power status report for concerned establishments.

Samuel Chioson of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) said although the 10-day power shortage will seriously affect business in Cebu, he was assured by the power sector that the problem is temporary. (EOB/JKV/Sun.Star Cebu)