CEBU CITY -- Starting next month, there will be no unscheduled preventive maintenance work on power plants to ensure there will be no brownouts on May 10.

Department of Energy (DOE)-Central Visayas Director Antonio Labios said Secretary Angelo Reyes’ order may last even two months after the 2010 elections.

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For now, intermittent brownouts continue to hit Metro Cebu. Despite the restoration of the 60-megawatt geothermal plant in Leyte, power supply fell 180 mw short of the demand in the Visayas on Wednesday.

But the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGPC) presented a graph showing by February 14, supply will match demand.

“There will be no more maintenance shutdown. This was done in January and February in preparation for the summer months and election,” said Paul Hubahib of the Office of the Press Secretary.

The Visayan Electric Company Inc. (Veco) is also adopting a new initiative, apart from the Interruptible Load Plan (ILP) where Veco encourages companies to use their own power during peak hours.

Ricky Lacson, vice president for customer services and administration, said a special pricing mechanism based on time of use allows companies to move their operations from peak to off-peak hours.

“By doing so, they take advantage of lower rates but from our perspective, we are also helping manage the demand,” Lacson told Sun.Star Cebu.

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) approved the scheme last December. Lacson said Veco met in January with some consumers with a minimum demand of one megawatt.

They are targeting big players such as the mall operators and large manufacturing companies like San Miguel Corp. But the power distributor hopes to offer the scheme to residential customers as well.

Since February began, Cebu has been experiencing brownouts every night during peak hours.

From February 2 to February 7, rotating brownouts were felt from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Power supply fell short by some 200 megawatts in the Visayas, a temporary situation caused by the preventive maintenance of some plants.

In Cebu, deficit was felt the most last February 3, when the shortfall stood at 105 megawatts. But this was also because there was no supply from Luzon.

Last Tuesday, the second unit of the Mahanagdong Power Plant started producing 60 megawatts of power. The second unit will be completed on February 16, when an additional 60 megawatts of power will be produced.

The Mahanagdong Power Plant had to shut down last January 30 for preventive maintenance.

On February 23, the Cebu Thermal Power Plant will also complete its preventive maintenance shutdown. The plant will provide an additional 50 megawatts.

There is no need to worry as far as power supply during Election Day is concerned, said Hubahib.

Preventive maintenance shutdown was originally scheduled for November and December but was postponed because of the Christmas season. The work was postponed again to the last week of January, because of the Sinulog last January 17.

“But we will have enough capacity for the elections,” Hubahib assured.

Some business owners pointed out during the 888 News Forum last week that the power shortage is not caused by the lack of plants but by the simultaneous preventive maintenance of the power plants in Leyte (120 megawatts) and Naga in Cebu (50 megawatts). (JGA/RSA/EOB/Sun.Star Cebu)