DAVAO CITY -- The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) again placed the Mindanao grid on “red alert” Tuesday due to extremely volatile power situation in the island.

The move came after power supply in Mindanao and the Visayas continues to diminish due to high temperature that prevails over most of the regions.

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NGCP spokesperson Milfrance Capulong said the capacity of the four hydro electric power plants that tap Agus and Pulangi river systems in Mindanao has further been reduced to 80 and 60 percent, respectively, due to the extremely low water levels in Lake Lanao and the Pulangi River System.

"The contingency reserve as of the moment is already zero. The water levels are really low," Capulong said.

Latest data showed that the hydro plants in Mindanao have reduced their power generation by as much as 400 megawatts.

"The continuing generation deficiency in the Mindanao grid has compelled the system to curtail the power load transmitted to grid customers," NGCP said in an advisory.

Further aggravating the situation is the planned outage of Power Barge 117, which is seen to further increase the power deficit by 50 megawatts.

With this, Department of Energy chief Angelo Reyes said in a report that some areas in Mindanao are now suffering from two to three hours brownout while the "difficult area" has experienced total blackouts that lasted for more than five hours.

This has also been happening in some provinces in the Visayas with a shortage of as much as 200 megawatts recorded this month following the shutting down of power plants in the island for preventive maintenance.

In Cebu, a one-hour rotating brownout was implemented by the Visayan Electric Company (Veco) due to insufficient power supply reserves in the Visayas grid and aging power plants that can't keep up with a growing demand for electricity pegged at 800 megawatts.

Reyes said the Energy department is looking at implementing the supply augmentation program in Mindanao to resolve the power crisis there.

In the Visayas, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assured Tuesday that the energy problem is now being addressed jointly by the government and private sector.

In a Cabinet meeting in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Arroyo said that among the measures to plug the problem is the construction and improvement of power plants like the 200-megawata coal-fired plant of Korean Electric Company-Salcon in Naga, Cebu that would be operational by 2011.

“There is an energy gap in the Visayas, but it is being plugged by a 200-megawatt plant in Naga, Cebu and a billion dollars worth of investment by Metrobank and its partners for more than 600 megawatt in Cebu and Iloilo. In fact, [the] new 250 megawatt plant in Toledo, Cebu soft opened last Sunday and will be inaugurated on March 1 with myself as guest of honor,” she said.

The President was referring to the 246-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Toledo City that was put up by the consortium of Formosa Heavy Industries Corp. of Taiwan, Aboitiz Power Corp., Vivant Power Corp., and Global Business Power Corp. of the Metrobank Group of Companies.

At least $500 million was invested on the Toledo Power Company.

In the meantime, Arroyo advised the public to save on electricity.

Ross Luga, corporate communications officer of Davao Light and Power Company, echoed the President’s statement, saying with the precarious situation of power, the electric utility feels it imperative to advise its customers to be prudent in their use of electricity.

He said conserving in the usage of energy could help reduce the demand for power from the already fast depleting source.

He added that while power companies are committed to minimize the rotational outages in Visayas and Mindanao, conserving energy may just be another option to further spare this city and several other provinces from the effects of the outages.

Unlike the Visayas and Mindanao grids, the Luzon grid will still be under normal status, said the NGCP Tuesday.

Five power plants in Luzon are undergoing repair and maintenance checks that will last until March. (CPM/With JMR/MSN/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)