ENOUGH power supply in Mindanao during the May 10 elections has been assured by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

But the assurance of a three-day full power supply from May 9 to 11 would mean that the deficiency of the power supply would drag on until September of this year.

Click here for Election 2010 updates

Mindanao Development Authority head Secretary Jesus Dureza said that during their visit to the Agus and Pulangi facilities on Sunday, technical people from the NGCP informed them that they have prepared two scenarios to ensure that there will be no brownouts in Mindanao during the election day.

"Scenario A is that Transco (NGCP) and Psalm (Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management) will triple the volume of water that they will be releasing before, during and after election day. Scenario B is for Transco and Psalm to provide seven to nine days of power. We expect that the scenario A will be the one they will be using," Dureza said.

He said that at present the release of water is being conserved at 30 cubic meters per second. But on election day, they will release 100 cubic meters per second so there will be no brownouts to avoid that failure of elections scenario in Mindanao.

"This will of course decrease the water level substantially and we may recoup the used water by September. But of course it’s worth the price to see to it that we have no failure of election here in Mindanao because of the power situation," Dureza said.

Improving

At present, Dureza said the Pulangi River is now improving but still it’s in critical level though. Even if typhoon would come in, he said, the water level in Lake Lanao is also expected to normalize only by December 2010.

"As of about two days ago (Sunday) the latest briefer from the NGCP is that we are again short by more than 500MW (megawatt) in Mindanao. So there will be more power curtailment all over Mindanao," Dureza said.

In the NGCP website, it stated that the power deficiency in the Mindanao grid as of March 31 is 518MW.

On the Agus facility, Dureza said the present situation there is that it has something like 75 centimeters left before the critical period for the shutdown.

"If we are losing one centimeter every two days, and if conditions remain the same, we will be totally shutting down the Agus plants in 160 days," he warned.

"But then there has been some rains already coming in some areas. The Pulangi facility has a little bit improved its water level there but still we are still very much lacking in Mindanao," Dureza added.

Private sector entry

In two month's time though, Mindanao is expected to get a respite from the power problem since there will be two power facilities that will be constructed by the private sector.

Dureza said Malacañang has given the go signal for the importation of two portable power plants in Mindanao.

The Cabinet level group headed by Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza met March 22 and approved proposals of Zamboanga Electric Cooperative and the South Cotabato Electric Cooperative to import potable plants, which will be set up in Zamboanga and Saranggani provinces.

The said plants will be generating 30MW per hour each to lessen the energy shortage of 700MW in Mindanao and is expected to lessen by two hours the rotating brownouts in some areas, Dureza said during Club 888 at Marco Polo.

"These new generators, which are quick mounting, will be ready in two months time according to them. This was approved last Monday na bigyan ng support from the Cabinet. If things will go well then by April 22-23 we will conduct ERC hearings and by the end of April good na ito," Dureza said.

Dureza said setting up the plant would be made through loans to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

"Loans will be applied to the LBP and the DBP as each would need an approximate of P800 million each. But LBP and DBP would have to look at the viability of the project because that's a loan that would have to be returned to the banks. The projects would still undergo scrutiny," Dureza said.

Dureza said he expects the introduction of new energy generators in Mindanao to hike up the power rates.

"In order to ensure that there will be a safe return, they would need an approval from the ERC on the rate wherein i-bid itong rate," Dureza said.

Dureza said this then would need the approval of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), who in turn would need an approval from Mindanao's stakeholders.

"The ERC cannot approve it unless they would get the approval of the stakeholders. What is to be done now is, aside from financing that is now on stream, a quick approval from the ERC of a new rate," Dureza said.

The Mindanao power rate is around P6.50 per kilowatt hour, Dureza said. In example that if the plant would cause the power rates in Saranggani and Zamboanga to P21 then some of this rate will be distributed to the Mindanao power grid.

"They will be adding power to the Mindanao grid so although sa Saranggani and Zamboanga ito mase-setup the rise will be leveled to the Mindanao rate," he said.

"Although tataas ang rate hindi naman gaano but this would still have to go under hearings do I don't want to pre-empt," Dureza said.

Unconfirmed information showed that power rate would increase from P13 per kilowatt-hour (kwh) to as much as P21/kwh once the private power facilities come into operation.

"This will still be subject to scrutiny. If the public will oppose it, so be it," Dureza said. (JCZ/BOT)