DAVAO CITY -- Power shortage in Mindanao has doubled in just one day as two hydro-electric plants in the island have reduced their capabilities and two more have become unavailable.

In a power system update of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the generation deficiency in Mindanao as of Tuesday is at 358 megawatts (MW), a marked increase from Monday's deficit of 183 MW.

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Also on Tuesday, there had been an 80 percent and 60 percent reduction in the available capabilities of Agus and Pulangi Plants, respectively.

Reduction in the capabilities of these two plants on Monday was at 70 percent.

Agus Plant is now running at 120 MW out of total rated capacity of 727 MW, while Pulangi is running at 100 MW out of total rated capacity of 255 MW.

These two power plants reduced their generation capacity as the water level of Lake Lanao on Wednesday morning has gone down to 699.16 meters.

Also contributing to the power deficiency is the non-availability of Iligan Diesel Power Plant (IDPP) (35 MW) and the planned outage of Power Barge 117 (50 MW).

It was the National Power Corporation (NPC)-Central Office that recently ordered the IDPP to temporarily stop its operations due to heavy budgetary constraints, particularly on fuel consumption.

Engineer Manuel Cabatingan, IDPP plant manager, said the plant needs at least P60 million fuel budget cost per month aside from the rental.

"We are waiting for an order from NPC when to resume operation so that the IDPP can support the needs amid power crisis being experienced in Mindanao," Cabatingan said.

With this development, Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC), the power service provider of this city and parts of Davao del Norte, has changed the scheduled 30-minute rotational power interruption to one hour "effective immediately."

NGCP said the continuing generation deficiency will result in the curtailment of power load transmitted to Mindanao grid users.

Customers are advised to coordinate with distribution utilities or electric cooperatives in their area for information on the schedule and areas to be affected by the power interruptions.

With 662 MW of reserves, the Luzon grid, meanwhile, remains stable and under normal status. It is already exporting up to 20 MW to augment the available capacity of Visayas.

Like Mindanao, the Visayas islands will continue to experience generation deficiency. Geothermal plants, which comprise around 70 percent of Visayas grid’s power source, have a total available capacity of 730 MW out of the total rated capacity of 936 MW.

Some areas in the Davao Region have already been experiencing brownouts that lasted for as long as six hours.

Amid the uncertainty spawned by the power shortage, Presidential Adviser for Mindanao Jesus Dureza is set to meet with key stakeholders of the Mindanao power industry to discuss updates on energy situation and map out steps to avert power problems.

"There is an urgent need to address the situation and find solutions as soon as possible considering that the energy sector is vital to continuing growth and progress," said Dureza.

The government also announced Wednesday that two foreign investors groups have expressed interest to construct a nuclear plant in the country to address the power shortage.

Froilan Tampinco, president of National Power Corp. (Napocor), said the two companies include the South Korea-based Korea Electric Power Corp. (Kepco) and a French company he declined to name.

Kepco was commissioned by Napocor to study the possible rehabilitation of the 620-MW Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP).

Tampinco said they have already identified possible sites for nuclear plant, including the BNPP location.

“Remember, (the BNPP compound) is good for two units. When the BNPP was constructed, they had also laid the foundation for a second unit. They were anticipating another 620-MW nuclear power plant,” Tampinco explained.

He said the government should start making preparations as early as now to ensure that all the necessary policies and infrastructures are in place since it takes as long as 10 years to put up a nuclear facility.

The Department of Energy noted that the first 600-MW nuclear power plant of the country should be in place by 2025. This is expected to contribute 0.885 million ton oil equivalent (MTOE) to the projected energy mix and reach up to 3.54 MTOE by 2035.

Analysts, meantime, said that if not quickly addressed, the current energy problem brought about by supply shortages could be compounded by rising generation cost for fuel-run power plants and the effects of El Niño dry spell for hydro-power plants. (BOT/With Richel V. Umel of Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro/MSN/Medco/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)