NGCP explains, takes heat as Panay outage drags on

NGCP explains, takes heat as Panay outage drags on

 Iloilo Mayor Jerry Treñas attributes the power crisis in the Western Visayas region to delays in the upgrade of transmission lines by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines.

BLACKOUT BLUES Iloilo Mayor Jerry Treñas attributes the power crisis in the Western Visayas region to delays in the upgrade of transmission lines by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines. —ARNOLD ALMACEN/ILOILO CITY MAYOR’S OFFICE

ILOILO CITY — On the third day of the Panay-wide power outage, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), the private company in charge of managing power transmission across the country, said on Thursday that the unscheduled shutdowns of the largest power plants on the island caused the problem.

Following the Jan. 2 blackout, the company called for better energy resource planning in the archipelago to “ensure sufficient generation per island with a well-balanced mix of fuels and technology.”


“The unscheduled maintenance shutdowns of the largest power plants on Panay Island was the primary cause of the power interruption,” it said in a statement.


READ: Blackouts in Panay: NGCP, MORE Electric both to blame, says solon

Given the configuration of the Panay sub-grid and its dependency on variable energy sources from Negros Island when it loses internally generated power, there was also a need to provide sufficient nonvariable sources to stabilize the system, NGCP said.

The company said its Cebu-Negros-Panay Stage 3 project (CNP3) could contribute to solving the power supply problem. The project is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2024 and is seen to enhance grid reliability.

“NGCP strongly recommends the review of the Philippine Grid Code to cater to renewable energy sources, particularly the effective use of emerging technologies such as energy storage systems, among others,” it said.

Still at fault

Local government officials, however, said NGCP was also at fault for the massive outage, which could be worse than the April 2023 brownouts that largely affected only Iloilo province.

This time, all four Panay provinces, including Antique, Roxas and Aklan, plus Guimaras Island, suffered. Panay is the sixth largest island in the country and ranks fourth in terms of population.

READ: Panay blackout takes toll on locals, business

As of Thursday, Panay and Guimaras were grappling with a 50 percent power supply.


Hospitals had been prioritized but with only half their power needs.

Frustration among Panay residents continued to mount as no area has seen the restoration of normal power supply.

Power rotation remained in effect, causing intermittent outages across affected areas.

Mayor demands probe

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas called on Congress to investigate the power crisis that affected households and business establishments.

Treñas pointed to what he called repeated delays in upgrading transmission lines which he said had led to severe consequences for the Western Visayas region.

READ: Iloilo City mayor hits NGCP over Panay Island blackouts: I don’t know what it’s doing

He said the national government, through the Department of Energy (DOE), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and President Marcos, should use their authority to ensure immediate improvements in NGCP’s transmission lines.

“At least it’s clear who is at fault. The question is, who will be accountable for these issues? If I have the power to be accountable, I will take it. It’s not up to me. I’m just a small-time mayor in Panay. NGCP is a different story. Crack the whip. Let them do what ERC and DOE have been telling them for the longest time,” Treñas said.

Unfulfilled promise

Rep. Lorenz “Nonoy” Defensor of Iloilo’s third district, said NGCP had yet to fulfill its promise to complete the transmission lines linking Cebu, Negros and Panay, which he pointed to as the reason for the insufficient electricity in Panay.

If NGCP cannot fulfill its commitment to finish the transmission lines in the country, its franchise should be reviewed and the job “should be opened to more capable entities,” Defensor said.

Defensor also insisted that power generators implementing unplanned shutdowns should face penalties to prevent recurrence.

“Who is at fault? Is it an operator error? Do they lack personnel? Why did their equipment fail? They should be held accountable for this, and they should face the penalties imposed by the Energy Regulatory Commission on their power supply contracts paid for by consumers,” Defensor said.

Why it happened again?

ERC chair Monalisa Dimalanta said they would investigate the outage and the measures NGCP took to prevent outages.

According to Dimalanta, NGCP claimed it could implement the ERC’s recommended measures to improve the company’s coordination and communication protocols with power plant operators after the April 2023 brownouts.

“If the protocols are in place, the improved communication measures are in place, how could this have happened still? Those are the questions we need answers to when we conduct this investigation,” the ERC chair said in an interview with ANC.

Many parts of Panay remained without power on Thursday as NGCP awaited the 135-megawatt Palm Concepcion Power Corp. (PCPC) power plant to resume operations and stabilize the grid.

It was the 83-MW Panay Energy Development Corp. Unit 1 that first broke down on Tuesday. But its second unit and other power plants in Panay that were not scheduled for maintenance also shut down.

Still below capacity

Based on NGCP’s 2 p.m. bulletin on Thursday, 230 MW was being served by Panay power plants, augmented by 14.6 MW from sources elsewhere in the Visayas.

This equates to 244.6 MW of served capacity, still below the 300 MW required for the grid to stabilize.

Dimalanta said initial reports showed that a piece of equipment broke down when the PCPC plant tripped and the generator needed to cool down before restarting. This usually takes two to three days, she said.

Distributor MORE Electric and Power Corp., which covers Iloilo, said that all its 93,000 customers were affected by the blackout. Only around 50 percent had electricity as it implemented three-hour rotational loading.


Energy Assistant Secretary Mario Marasigan apologized to people in the region and said the DOE was “open” to an investigation.

While most areas in Western Visayas are still without electricity, he said power on the resort island of Boracay has been restored.

Lawmakers called for a probe into the massive outage.

House Deputy Majority Leader Janette Garin, the Iloilo first district representative, said she intended to file a resolution calling for a congressional inquiry.

The outage affected residents’ livelihoods, particularly those running small businesses, including eatery owners and market vendors whose perishable goods were spoiled due to the sudden power loss, she said.

“This is a bad welcome for the year 2024,” Garin said.

Senators irked

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said the DOE and NGCP “should get their acts together immediately.”

“We demand transparency in identifying the root causes of these outages and a comprehensive plan of action to resolve them,” he added.

Senators Raffy Tulfo, Sherwin Gatchalian and Ronald dela Rosa planned to file resolutions calling for a congressional inquiry when sessions resume on Jan. 22.

Tulfo, chair of the Senate committee on energy, said he would hold those responsible for “this unacceptable power outage” accountable.

Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate committee on public services, agreed that people should be made to answer for this latest outage, as she expressed concern over the impact of the power crisis on poor families, students, small businesses and the local governments.

3 components

“The blackout… in April last year in the island provinces should have been an eye-opener for the NGCP and power utilities. They should have been better prepared for any system disturbance and averted such with efficient planning and utilization of resources,” she said.

Sen. Francis Escudero said he supported the call for an investigation.

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“Power has three components—generation, transmission and distribution. All three must be looked into in order to have a complete picture [and] not simply do finger-pointing on how to prevent a similar occurrence from happening again in the future,” he said. —WITH REPORTS FROM MEG ADONIS, NESTOR CORRALES, JEANNETTE I. ANDRADE AND MELVIN GASCON 

TAGS: NGCP, Panay blackout, power outage

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