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Mindanao Development Authority sees end to Mindanao power shortage

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines—The brownouts of up to nine hours plaguing Mindanao for weeks now will be solved soon but it will be temporary and quite costly, Malacañang’s arm in the south, the Mindanao Development Authority or Minda announced on Thursday.

The Department of Energy said that Mindanao is currently experiencing a deficit of 300 megawatts due to the rehabilitation of certain power plants and other factors affecting the operations of the hydro-power facilities in Bukidnon and Lanao.

Minda chair Luwalhati Antonino said to ease the suffering of Mindanaoans, at least three oil-fired generators will be commissioned starting next month as rehabilitation work on the Lanao facilities is carried out.

She said that the 59-year-old facility in Lanao has deteriorated and can produce only about 570 megawatts. The Lanao hydro system, made up of the Agus facilities, used to generate almost 1,000 megawatts when it was commissioned in 1953, she said.

The DOE said, however, that even if the hydro facilities resume normal operations, Mindanao will still have power supply deficit because existing power plants can produce only an estimated 1,181 megawatts while peak demand is expected to hit 1,484 megawatts this year.

The outages, which the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) has scheduled, have not spared North Cotabato, host of the Mindanao geothermal power plants.

Vincent Baguio, North Cotabato Electric Coop. (Cotelco) spokesperson, said that electric consumers in the province have to endure up to seven hours of no electricity each day even if the geothermal plants on Mt. Apo produce a total of 104 megawatts of power.

He said the power cooperative gets a daily allocation of only 16 megawatts from NGCP even if it actually needs 30 to 32 megawatts a day to satisfy demand and avoid power outages.

The power outages, according to officials in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato’s capital, showed that there was an urgent need to compel the National Power Corp. to allocate 25 percent of the power produced by the geothermal facilities to Cotelco.

Despite being the host, North Cotabato does not directly get power from the geothermal facilities because it is fed to the Mindanao grid, Kidapawan Councilor Lauro Taynan said.  This was contrary to the provisions of Republic Act 7638 or the Department of Energy Act of 1992, he said.

“Section 5 of RA 7638 has mandated the DOE to devise ways and means of giving direct benefit to the province, city, or municipality, especially the community and people affected, and equitable preferential benefit to the region that hosts the energy resource and/or the energy-generating facility, in this case Kidapawan City,” he said.

The Kidapawan government has filed a petition in a local court, asking it to compel the Napocor to comply with the law.

In General Santos City, officials said what consumers could do to ease the shortage is to cut down on power consumption.

General Santos City Mayor Darlene Custodio said major power consumers, or large companies, could use their generating sets and shift operations from peak load hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to the off-peak hours of 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.

Household consumers, she said, could also cut down on power usage by switching off either their refrigerators or air conditioners for three to four hours daily during peak load hours.

“By doing this, we will be able to save at least one megawatt daily, at the same time, cut down our expenses on electricity,” Custodio said.

The Minda chief said that the power situation will improve starting next month when the Iligan diesel power plant starts to operate with an initial output of 20 megawatts.

She said two other power plants—the 15-megawatt Mapalad diesel power plant being operated by the Mapalad Energy Generating Corp.; and the 15-megawatt bunker fuel Peaking Plant of the EEI Power Corp. —will add 30 megawatts of additional power to Mindanao when they start running.

A government source said Minda’s solution could prove to be expensive for consumers because of high petroleum prices.

Household consumers currently pay about P6 per kilowatt hour consumed but this could increase to over P10 per KwH because of the use of the oil-fired power plants, said the source, who requested anonymity.

Antonino said the Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee, co-chaired by Minda and DOE, is also conducting a resource mapping and assessment project for hydro and biomass resources, a project that is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s Climate Change and Clean Energy Project, to boost Mindanao’s power generating capacity.

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