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Amid outages, Mindanao power rates up

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10:48 PM May 31st, 2012

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May 31st, 2012 10:48 PM

TAGUM CITY – Consumers in some parts of Mindanao have been told to brace for higher electric bills this month.

The Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Daneco) said consumers should expect an increase in power charges because the cooperative had to buy more expensive power from private firms due to insufficient supply of electricity coming from cheaper, government-owned plants.

Almost half of Daneco’s 71-megawatt (MW) power requirement is being provided by the Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc. (TMI) which charges more for electricity than the state-owned Agus-Pulangi hydropower complex, according to Dean Briz, Daneco board chair.

Briz said electricity started to cost more in the aftermath of power shortages that began last April.

Briz said Daneco, which serves at least 130,000 consumers in the entire Compostela Valley province and most of Davao del Norte, needs at least 71 MW of electricity.

He said at least 20 MW of these come from TMI, owned by the Aboitiz family that was close to the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Jose Almendras, President Benigno Aquino III’s energy secretary, was former treasurer of Aboitiz and Co., the mother firm of TMI.

11-MW shortfall

Daneco gets an additional 40 MW from the Agus-Pulangi complex, said Briz. The government-owned facility, however, fell short of its target supply by 11 MW causing frequent brownouts in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte.

Daneco pays at least P10.30 per kilowatt hour to TMI and P3 per kilowatt hour to National Power Corp., which operates the Agus-Pulangi facility. “That’s a huge difference,” said Briz.

The case of Zamboanga City government employee Emmaruth Sadalani could best illustrate the continuing misery brought upon by Malacanang’s failure to find a quick solution to Mindanao’s power shortage other than President Aquino bluntly telling the people to bear higher costs if they wanted stable electric supply.

Sadalani, a government employee, paid P863.48 for her March electric consumption despite the eight to 12 hours of brownouts that plagued Zamboanga City daily that month.

“Out of 720 hours in a month, we didn’t have power for 240 hours,” Sadalani said.

But instead of paying lower for power in April because of the brownouts, Sadalani’s bill even increased to P927.57 that month.

Jacqueline Bue, finance department manager of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, said there had been no power-rate increase the past months.

“What was reflected [in the electric bills], and we cannot do anything about it, were charges on generation system, transmission system, forex and system loss,” Bue said.

The bills, Bue added, did not yet include additional charges brought by the purchase of power from TMI.

Less power, more costs

Consumers in North Cotabato have also been warned of higher electric bills this month.

Engineer Godofredo Homes, general manager of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative, said the increase was expected as the cooperative was forced to buy power from TMI.

“We are expecting that TMI will send its bill before June 4,” said Homes. “This can be our basis for our computation as to how much the increase will be,” he said.

Kidapawan City is currently enjoying electricity 24 hours a day but the rest of North Cotabato continues to suffer from hour-long daily brownouts.

In Butuan City, power rates had surged by 80 centavos per kilowatt hour when the city’s lone supplier of electricity – Agusan del Norte Electric Cooperative (Aneco) – also started buying power from TMI.

Danny dela Serna, Aneco spokesperson, said the cooperative was forced to buy 11 MW from TMI after Napocor reduced its supply. Frinston Lim, Julie S. Alipala, Carlo Agamon and Franklin Caliguid, Inquirer Mindanao

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