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Higher power rates expected in Mindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/10 October) — The business sector has warned of higher power rates in Mindanao as it chided the Department of Energy for allegedly misleading consumers on the supply situation that has triggered anew rotational brownouts.

Manuel F. D. Yaphockun, a member of the Board of Directors of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. said the DoE has not been truthful about the electricity situation in Mindanao.

“As of 3 pm on October 9, the deficit reached 400 megawatts, only 200 MW less than the brownouts early this year,” he claimed in a letter distributed to the local business community.

The South Cotabato Electric Cooperative II (Socotecto II) gave this city, the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” only 67 MW from the usual 100 MW because of the power supply deficit Mindanao is suffering, he said.

Yaphockun warned that prices of electricity will go up even more as more expensive sources of electricity such as power barges and diesel plants have to be purchased to stabilize the supply situation in the island

In a statement last week, Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras said the agency was determined to solve Mindanao’s power woes.

Explaining the recurring outages in the island, the Energy department said they discovered that power from hydro-resources specifically Pulangui IV has not been fully utilized because portion of the capacity is used as spinning reserves and NGCP has not dispatched their full capacity because of the same reasons.

A spinning reserve is any back-up energy production capacity which can be made available to a transmission system with ten minutes’ notice and can operate continuously for at least two hours once it is brought online.
Therma Marine Inc.’s power barges, with a combined 200 MW output, cannot be utilized in full because of National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ (NGCP) current Ancillary Services Procurement Agreement. Only half of its total capacity, 100 MW can be readily used. However, distribution utilities in Mindanao still have to contract this 100 MW from TMI., the DoE’s statement read.

Yaphockun warned consumers to brace for longer brownouts, with the worst expected to hit the city during the summer of 2011, with no new generating capacity going on stream by then.

To offset the effect of the power outages, however, he urged the cleaning and check-up of existing generators used by business establishments.
Based on the joint advisory of the NGCP and Socoteco II, brownouts have hit the cooperative’s coverage areas starting October 1 and will continue until October 17, with the outages lasting from 10 to 14 hours per substation.

Geronimo C. Desesto, Socoteco II manager for institutional services department, said the outages have been due to “preventive maintenance.”

The electric distributor serves the entire General Santos City, the whole Sarangani province and parts of South Cotabato.

As of Sunday, Mindanao has available capacity of 1,063 MW as against a peak load of 1,171 MW, or a supply shortfall of 108 MW, the website of NGCP showed.

In the first half of the year, daily power outages in some parts of Mindanao lasted for 12 hours, with the deficiency blamed on the El Nino phenomenon that caused the decline of water level that significantly reduced the production capacity of hydroelectric power plants in the island.

More than half of the power supply in Mindanao comes from hydroelectric power plants. (MindaNews)

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