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BROWNOUTS TO GO ON

Capitol cites ‘critical’ situation in Cebu; Unclear repair period of Leyte power plants affects Veco service

/ 10:15 AM December 13, 2013

How long will almost daily rotational brownouts continue in Cebu?

They will likely continue until next year due to pending repairs of damaged Leyte power plants, a top official of the Visayan Electric Company (Veco) said yesterday.

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Veco chief operating officer Sebastian Lacson said the private distribution utility could only resume full operation in Metro Cebu if the two major power generators are restored.

But no clear deadline has been given for repairs to be completed on damaged Leyte plants which supply the bulk of Cebu’s power.

Unified Leyte Inc. and another geothermal power plant in Leyte supply one-third of Veco’s power needs.

In a meeting yesterday at the Capitol, provincial officials and representatives of power firms including the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) failed to agree on a time frame for the full restoration of power in Cebu.

This was a sharp contrast to last month’s promise of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla to restore power in the Visayas before Christmas eve.

According to Lacson, power distributors, especially Veco, cannot find other sources of power in Visayas due to its “very little extra capacity.”

“Honestly, we cannot find anything to replace the 500 megawatts supplied by Leyte. Nothing close to that,” he said.

“Our brownout is really dependent on when Leyte power plants recover. Unified Leyte is the biggest power supplier of Veco because they give us 120 megawatts,” Lacson told reporters yesterday.

“Until Unified Leyte is restored, until we get a definite answer from them, we can’t say anything because the bottleneck is really supply, and the loss is really big,” he added.

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Power plants in Leyte which sustained heavy damage during the onslaught of supertyphoon Yolanda last Nov. 8, supply more than 500 megawatts of power to the entire Visayas grid.

At present, cities and municipalities covered by Veco specifically Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay Naga, San Fernando, Minglanilla, Liloan and Consolacion continue to experience rotation brownouts.

Veco brownouts last one to two hours and occur at different times in the day. The situation is worse in rural areas in the province where electric cooperatives are also affected by the inadequate power supply.

Lacson yesterday proposed a scheme to inter-connect with the power grid in Luzon but other representatives dismissed it as “costly.”

Cebu Provincial Administrator Mark Tolentino said the proposed solutions raised in yesterday’s meeting “were not satisfactory” for the parties present.

He urged representatives to come up with a timeline “for the benefit of the people.”

“We can all agree that the situation here is very critical and everyone shares the sentiment,” Tolentino said.

At present, ERC is implementing a trading suspension which bans power price rate hikes in calamity-hit areas.

Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said he will ask the ERC to continue with the suspension.

Huge boost

Both Davide and Lacson urged big companies to avail of the interruptible load program (ILP) and to run their power generators for Veco and other power utilities to save up on their power load.

According to Lacson, a number of companies in Metro Cebu have already “sacrificed” and started running their own generators at certain periods during the week.

He said this has enabled Veco to save up to 30 megawatts a day, and has eased the power shortage by almost half.

”If we didn’t have ILP, our brownouts would be double. Double in terms of duration and in terms of frequency so we are very thankful to those under the ILP because we need it more than ever. Their contribution has really helped,” said Lacson.

“It will be of huge help if we can lower the demand during peak hours during the day. Even if we avoid using electricity during the night, it’s not a big help,” he added.

Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III said he will continue to meet with energy sector representatives for updates.

A weekly report on the progress of their operations will also be required, he said.

“Nobody can give us a definite timeline because of all the uncertainties that surround us,” he said.

He said a joint statement from the Cebu provincial government and power utilities will be released today for the guidance of the public.

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TAGS: Cebu, News, rotational brownouts, Visayan Electric Company (Veco)
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