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Brownouts plague Catanduanes

By: - Correspondent / @InquirerSLB
/ 01:41 AM May 08, 2012

VIRAC, Catanduanes—Just three days after President Aquino led the ceremonial switch-on of the much-touted mini hydroelectric plants of Sunwest Water and Electric Co. here, the entire Catanduanes grid began experiencing six-hour brownouts on Saturday when a bunker-fuel generating set conked out and the three hydropower plants on stream failed to deliver due to low water levels.

The First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative Inc. (Ficelco) resorted to “load shedding” in all 11 towns after the 3.6-megawatt generator set of Catanduanes Power Generation Inc. (CPGI) broke down. This immediately took out 2.5 MW from the grid, resulting in a deficiency of 2 MW during peak load and 1 MW during off-peak hours.

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Despite its lack of funds for the continued operation of its generator set, CPGI recently resumed supplying power for 10 to 11 hours daily, after shutting it down for a few weeks.

An official of the cooperative, who requested anonymity as he was not authorized to disclose details, told the Inquirer last weekend that the company had sent technicians from Manila to repair the generator set.

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“The CPGI plant was repaired on Sunday night, but it operated for only two hours while unannounced, short-duration brownouts continued to be experienced,” the official said.

Edwin Tatel, plant supervisor of National Power Corp.’s (Napocor) Catanduanes grid, revealed that Sunwest’s hydropower plants—Solong, Hitoma I and Balongbong—had been contributing barely 25 percent of their nominal capability due to low water levels in their reservoirs brought about by rainless weeks.

The plants account for 80 percent of the total power demand during rainy days when they deliver a total of 5.4 MW.

Part of the slack is taken up by the Monark mobile generator sets, which are rented by Napocor at high cost and are operating for at least 12 hours daily.

Napocor officials have said that should CPGI’s generator set be sidelined, the Monark facilities would be operated beyond the contracted hours, but this would severely affect Napocor’s budgetary allocations for the grid.

Among the issues presented to Malacañang officials during the President’s visit here on May 2 were the possible restoration by the Department of Budget and Management of the budget for the aborted purchase of three new diesel generator sets for Napocor’s Marinawa plant and funding for the 69-kilovolt transmission line.

Mr. Aquino came to the province to inaugurate the state-of-the-art Doppler weather radar station in Bato town.

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According to Gov. Joseph Cua, the President referred to Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras the proposal to reconsider the P250-million allocation for the transmission line.

The island grid has around 35,000 member-consumers paying probably one of the highest power costs in the country at about P12 per kilowatt hour despite the operation of the three hydro plants.

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TAGS: Brownout, Catanduanes, Electricity, hydroelectric plants
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