Friday, May 26, 2006

Mindanao power supply to remain critical despite coal plant

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (Mike Baños / May 25) The worst may be over for the Mindanao grid this summer with the onset of the rainy season, but power supply in the island remains critical, as oil fired plants come down and repairs in its hydroelectric plants continue.

Emmanuel Abellanosa, Transco area manager for North Central Mindanao, said they have been constrained to implement voluntary power curtailment or "power shedding" at various times this simmer due to imbalances between the available power from National Power Corporation (NPC) and the demand from residential, commercial and industrial users.

"There's not enough spinning reserve in the Mindanao grid to address contingencies," Abellanosa said.

NPC figures show the system gross reserve in Mindanao from the latter half of 2005 to year end 2006 to be insufficient to meet the 11.9-percent load following/frequency reserve and spinning reserve requirements.

NPC president Cyril C. del Callar, NPC president Cyril C. del Callar earlier warned that "recurring power shortages are expected especially during peak periods, when generators and or associated transmission lines are on forced outage."

Peak power demand in Mindanao this summer topped 1,100 megawatts but the NPC only managed to supply an average of 1,050 megawatts to the Mindanao Power Grid. As a result, whenever there's a glitch in the distribution system, power is cut in some areas as the grid seeks to balance the remaining available power throughout the delicately balanced system.

Abellanosa said NPC's total power generated has been curtailed due to ongoing rehabilitation works in the Agus IV Hydro-Electric Power Plant at Iligan City, the 255-megawatt Pulangi IV Hydro Electric Plant in Bukidnon and the Iligan Diesel Power Plant in Ditucalan, Iligan City, turned over a few years back by independent power producer Northern Mindanao Power Corporation.

Agus IV's generators Nos.1 and 4 with a total output of 92 MW experienced problems with its turbines while low water level in the catchment area for the Pulangi IV HEP drastically curtailed its production. The Iligan Diesel Power Plant (25 MW) is not producing as much power as it should.

As a result, power supply to the Zamboanga peninsula and nearby areas was curtailed by 50MW causing up to three hour power outages although Cagayan de Oro city managed to get by due to the Mindanao Energy Systems (Minergy) power plant which augmented available power to the local utility (Cagayan de Oro Electric Power & Light Co. or CEPALCO) with 18 MW.

The onset of rains bodes well for the hydroelectric power complexes in Agus and Pulangi rivers but until power from these sources stabilize, Transco would be constrained to continue its power shedding contingency, Abellanosa said.

Rafael Magbanua, communications officer for Transco NCMA, said at least 85 percent of Mindanao has already been tapping independent power producers (IPPs) and NPC power barges particularly in key areas.

"But we are still talking about a very erratic and critical power supply...this power sourcing is very abnormal still," he said.

That's for the short term. Over the medium and long term, even if only ongoing base load coal-fired power plant in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental comes online as scheduled by year end, it's merely going to patch things over but not fix it.

Although the grid is being weaned away from its traditional dependence on hydroelectric power plants, the bulk of generated power in the island is still being sourced from the Agus Hydroelectric Power Plants in Iligan City and Lanao del Sur and the Pulangi Hydroelectric Power Plants in Maramag, Bukidnon.

The Regional Development Council in Region 10 (RDC-10) has sounded the alarm over the deteriorating power situation in Mindanao.

Arsenio L. Sebastian III, RDC-10 vice-chairman and Dr. Modesto Babaylan, RDC 10 infrastructure committee co-chairman, disclosed recently that Pulangi is producing only 100-120MW of its 255MW rated capacity due to accumulated siltation in the Pulangi River feeding its catchment basin.

Besides the lack of available funds to dredge the Pulangi river, Sebastian said they also have no place to dump the dredged silt taken from it.

Sebastian is also concerned the Mindanao Coal –Fired Power Plant might be delayed. Department of Energy statistics show a rising demand for power that the present supply might be unable to meet even with the new base load plant online, he said.

STEAG state power communications officer Jerome Soldervilla said RDC-10's fears are unfounded. "As of 15 May 2006, the power plant project is 95.5% complete. Based on this figure vis-à-vis the timelines, we are on track and confident that it will commence commercial operations by end of this year,"

"Right now, we are at the commissioning stage, meaning all mechanical and electrical facilities and equipment undergo series of testing," he added. "Transco's term of 'on-line' simply means that the power plant (through its 6-kilometer 138kV transmission line connected to Transco's sub-station in Natumulan, Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental) is already energized and is technically connected to the grid."

NPC President del Callar earlier said that from 2007 to 2008, power supply in Mindanao would be stable as the system gross reserve remains sufficient to meet the LFFR and spinning reserve with the scheduled commissioning of the 200 MW coal plant.

The average power supply reserve margin in the Mindanao grid from 2005 to 2008 is 7.26% with 2008 having the lowest projected power supply reserve margin of 3.93% . By 2009, peak demand for power in Mindanao will start to exceed the existing power capacity , with additional new capacity of about 57 MW to be needed for the year and an average of 116 MW every year thereafter.

But the environmental advocacy group Task Force Macajalar (TFC) has called the NPC projections inaccurate.

TFM spokesperson BenCyrus Ellorin said Mindanao can sustain its power needs without resorting to fossil fuels like oil or coal because its existing hydropower plants are sufficient to meet the island's needs if their full potential of 12,000MW is tapped.

Latest NPC figures only show an existing power band of 982 –1,500 MW with independent power producers (IPPs) capable of another 543 MW.

NPC expects power demand in Mindanao to grow 11.8 percent from 2005-2011 and would need to have an installed capacity of 2,830MW by the end of this period with the Mindanao Coal-Fired Power Plant filling the gap.

Ellorin believes Mindanao would be better off if it rehabilitates its present hydroelectric power plants and reforest the watersheds that support them or inter-connect with the rest of the Philippine grid with the Leyte-Mindanao Inter-connection project.

The Mindanao grid is divided into three sub-grids - North, West, and South Mindanao. Of these, , only North Mindanao enjoys an excess capacity while the West and South Mindanao grids have to import from the North Mindanao sub-grid to sufficiently address peak power demand in their respective areas.

The country's Power Development Plan for 2005 to 2014 stresses the importance of putting up more power generating plants in order to avert a power shortfall in the major islands of the country, particularly in Mindanao since the previous surplus has been effectively erased with the reopening of the National Steel Corporation (NSC, now Global Steel International, Inc. or GSII) steel plant in Iligan City.

If power plants were to deliver the expected power supply in the future, the time to construct them (in no. of years) would be : coal (6), hydro (5), geothermal (5), diesel (high capacity)-4, gas turbine (4), wind (4), diesel (low capacity)-1, power barge (8 mos.)


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