ILIGAN CITY, Philippines—The recurrence of crippling power crisis in Mindanao, coupled with the same issues as in the past, has re-ignited calls for reforms among distribution utilities and activists.
The current power crisis follows that of 2012, at exactly the same period of the year. A more serious one faced Mindanao in 2010 amid a long dry spell that began in October 2009.
But just like last year, the distribution utility Iligan Light and Power Inc. (ILPI), “is pushing for a higher allocation from (the) Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation.”
PSALM controls the National Power Corp. (Napocor) which operates the Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric power generating complexes, and contracts power supply from private generators for allocation to distribution utilities like ILPI and electric cooperatives.
In a news release, ILPI chief operations officer Rolando Linaac said the request to PSALM is pursued “through the help of the Iligan City government.”
Linaac said the city hosts Agus 5, 6 and 7 which accounts for a total dependable capacity of 167 megawatts.
Peak demand in Iligan is at 37 MW, but for the period 2013 to 2016, Linaac said, its average allocation from PSALM is only 15.7 MW” which is “equivalent to only 42 percent of its peak requirement.”
Because of this supply shortfall, brownouts in Iligan last four to five hours a day. For purposes of rotating the outages, ILPI divided the city into three zones. The outages are scheduled 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m..
Last year, ILPI’s contracted capacity with PSALM is 39 MW. However, due to the reduced generation output of the capacities under its control, PSALM only provided it 27 MW.
Similar calls for preferential treatment for host localities of power plants were made last year by Lanao del Norte and North Cotabato.
That time, the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) even threatened to defy the load curtailment directive of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.
To maintain the technical integrity of the grid, the Philippine Grid Code empowers NGCP, as grid operator, to impose load shedding among distribution utilities when supply from power generators falls short of demand.
Lanao del Norte’s Baloi town hosts Agus 4 which has three generating units, each with an installed capacity of 52.7 MW. North Cotabato hosts the Mt. Apo geothermal plant which has two generating units, each with an installed capacity of 54.2 MW.
At present, the Lanao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Laneco) is allocated 7.4 MW of power. Its requirement is 13 MW, hence, brownouts of up to 12 hours in the province.
As the situation worsened, activists have called for a renewed investigation into allegedly “shadowy incidents that plunged Mindanao into darkness.”
Lucita Gonzales, secretary-general of the nongovernment group Power Alternative Agenda for Mindanao (Palag-Mindanao), lamented that the issues
hounding the recent crisis as well as the suggested solutions are nothing new.
“We are just saddened that the interest of consumers, especially for low-cost electricity, are not factored into the discussion by policymakers for solutions,” Gonzales stressed.
Last month, just like last year, government has urged Mindanao power consumers to brace for high-cost electricity if they want to lick the problem of brownouts.
Gonzales said that one area requiring probe is “the true reason for the reduced generation output of the Agus and Pulangi hydro capacities.”
She called on employees of the Napocor’s Mindanao Generation Office (MinGen) to “fulfill their patriotic duty by revealing to the public the true state of the Agus and Pulangi operations.”