Severe brownouts likely in Mindanao during polls
MANILA, Philippines - Mindanao may see a repeat of the 2010 power crisis that brought 10- to 12-hour rotating brownouts in the region next year -- an election year -- if measures to boost current supply are not implemented.
Joseph Nocos, vice president for business development of the Alsons power group, gave this warning in an energy briefing Wednesday, October 24, noting that the anticipated El Niño phenomenon will affect the output of the region's hydroelectric power plants.
These hydro plants, which run on water flowing from Lake Lanao into the Agus River, account for over half of Mindanao's generation capacity, said Nocos.
In 2010, a power crisis occurred after a dry spell brought water in the lake to its lowest level in 3 decades.
"We are tracking the same trend. If PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) is correct and we follow this trend, we will see a repeat of 2010," said Nocos. "Supply of water in Lake Lanao is going to be critical."
"If we lose 600-MW, there will be an equivalent 10.6-hour outage. This is what we're expecting next year," Nocos noted.
Nocos said El Niño will be felt in the "critical months" of March to May, when the 2013 mid-term elections will be held, all the way to June.
"We are anxious because 2013 is an election year. Elections in Mindanao can be critical in terms of security and reliable power supply. It's an important concern to all of us," Nocos said.
Right now, Mindanao is experiencing 3.5- to 4-hour brownouts daily because the 200-MW coal-fired plant of STEAG Power Inc. has been shut down for maintenance works.
To solve the power problem in the region, Nocos cited two measures that are now underway: the implementation of an interim electricity market and the sale of the 100-MW Iligan diesel power plant.
The Interim Electricity Market in Mindanao (IMEM) is expected to add some 360MW more to supply by providing investors with excess generating capacity a platform where they can sell power.
Nocos cited for example Dole Philippines, which has a 12-MW plant serving its own needs. "The power plant is there, it is more than what Dole needs. There is capacity that could be tapped but we're unable to because there is no mechanism for the generator to feed power into the grid."
Meanwhile, the Commission on Audit has approved the sale of the Iligan plant to the Alsons group.
If it pushes through, "we will have full 100MW capacity put back on operation by March," said Nocos.
"It's now in the final discussion. The only thing that needs to be discussed is the acquisition price."
From 2015 onwards, Nocos said power supply in Mindanao is expected to "stabilize" as new plants come on stream.
"From 2015 to 2014, baseload requirements will be supplied mainly by coal and the contribution of hydro will be less. That means our vulnerability to climate, El Niño will be reduced."
"The role of private sector in providing power to Mindanao has increased and will continue to increase." - Reports from Lean Santos and Ramon Calzado, Rappler.com