THE top official of the electric utility in Cebu cannot promise that there will be no brownouts on May 10, the day of the elections.

“We can’t assure that there will be no brownouts on election day,” said Jimmy Aboitiz, president of the Visayan Electric Co. (Veco).

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“Are there going to be localized brownouts in some precincts? It’s very possible,” he told Sun.Star Cebu in a media gathering yesterday at Maya restaurant.

He said two-thirds of Veco’s contracts are for power supply from Leyte, so if there will be problems with the power supply coming from Leyte, then the power supply in Cebu could be affected.

Aboitiz said rotating brownouts have been occurring in Cebu because of a confluence of events creating “the perfect storm”— the planned shutdown of the geothermal power plant in Leyte for maintenance, as well as the unplanned shutdowns of power plants in Cebu.

He said power plants usually schedule their maintenance work in January, after the peak season of December.

This year, the maintenance work coincided with the unplanned shutdowns of the National Power Corp.’s aging power plants operated by SPC Power Corp. in Naga, Cebu.

“The two 50-megawatt plants there (Naga) are about 30 years old,” he said.

Fifty percent or 30 megawatts (MW) of the 60-MW Mahanagdong A Geothermal Power Plant –Unit 2 in Leyte was back on stream last night, which could lessen the massive brownouts being experienced by Metro Cebu for now.

Belinda Sales Canlas, corporate communications manager of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), said that the full 60 MW of Unit 2 will be available by tomorrow.

Facilities

She said the other plants as mentioned in their power situation update dated Feb. 1, will continue their maintenance activities as announced.

This is the Cebu Thermal Power Plant I at the Naga Power Plant Complex owned by the National Power Corp. but being maintained and operated by SPC Power Corp.

“The NGCP would like to reiterate that it does not own or operate and maintain these power generation facilities. As the system operator, NGCP’s main responsibilities are to transmit power and operate the power system in accordance with the Philippine Grid Code.” Canlas said.

There was no brownout last Sunday due to less power demand, said Veco corporate communications manager Ethel Natera.

But yesterday, Natera said sporadic brownouts were experienced almost every hour and in almost all areas in Cebu due to limited power generation.

Natera said the power shortage was 150 MW in the morning, 180 MW in the afternoon, and 220 MW in the evening.

Aboitiz said Veco figures also show that historically, there is a bigger growth in electricity consumption on an election years than on ther years.

Power Barge

Asked whether Veco could bring in power barges specifically for the elections to ensure uninterrupted power supply on that day, Aboitiz said all power barges in the country were currently being operated already, and that they were in Panay.

The power executive scoffed at speculation that the current brownouts are part of a greater conspiracy to condition the minds of voters that there could be brownouts on election day.

“I think that’s idle talk,” he told Sun.Star.

This year, elections will be automated. The counting machines will require electricity to count the votes and to transmit the results to the canvassing centers.

Although the Commission on Elections has said the counting machines will come with back-up power supply of 16 hours, there are fears that the elections may last longer than that in some areas.

To allay the fears of citizens, Aboitiz said the power demand will not be high on that day anyway, as school will be out and there will be no work, to allow citizens to vote.

He said telecommunications companies, whose signals would be needed to transmit the automated results, would also have their own back-up power supply.

Meanwhile, Tony Moraza, executive vice president and chief operating officer, power generation group of Aboitiz Power said that with an additional power supply of over 160 MW with the completion of Cebu Energy Development Corp.’s (CEDC) plants in Toledo City by June, the Visayas grid will have more than enough supply.

“Ginhawa na gyud ang grid,” he said.

With the completion of CEDC’s third plant by the end of the year, the Visayas is expected to have additional 600 mw of power.

“We’ll be the strongest grid in a few months,” he added.