Longer brownouts afflict Mindanao as repairs start on Pulangi hydro plant

Almendras: I won't let the ball drop, not now. means BUSINESS

MANILA, Philippines -  Mindanao is experiencing longer brownouts as the 250-MW Pulangi hydro plant undergoes repairs, and Energy Secretary Rene Almendras said the work will take one month.

While brownouts averaged 30 minutes to one hour before repairs began on the hydro power plant in Maramag, Bukidnon, that disruption has been extended to an average of 2 to 4 hours.

"We will see a bit more shortage," said Almendras on Wednesday.

Dogged by the wear and tear of age and massive siltation, Pulangi can only produce 100MW or less than half of its actual capacity.

Once the repairs are completed, however, officials see this returning to 240MW.

DOE, co-ops talking

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy is in talks with the Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives (AMRECO) to ensure they can control the schedules of the outages.

AMRECO conceded the situation in Mindanao has worsened owing to Pulangi’s shutdown.

"Tumaas yung kakulangan from 80-100 MW ngayon mga 180 MW na [The deficiency widened from 80-100 before to 180 MW]," according to Sergio Dagooc, president of AMRECO.

In some parts of the South, said Dagooc, outages can even last 3-4 hours, depending on the capability of the electric cooperative in an area.

Cooperatives with no existing contracts for supply or whose access to power barges have not been approved were the hardest hit, he added.

The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) confirmed that the power deficiency in Mindanao widened because of the Pulangi repairs.

The grid operator stressed, however, that the electric cooperatives and distribution utilities that obtained timely access to power from the barges had gotten substantial relief.

According to NGCP data, the deficiency in Mindanao stands at 273 MW, up from 170MW the past week.

"From the perspective of a grid operator, considering the NPC portfolio, there was an effect. You took away 100-150 mw from the grid. But then again that has been mitigated by the increased nominations of the DUs [distribution utilities]. Actual levels of brownouts will differ from cooperative to cooperative," explained Cynthia Alabanza, NGCP spokesperon.

In an earlier circular, DOE instructed the DUs and cooperatives to seal contracts for additional supply from the power barges of Thermamarine.

 A total of 192MW from the 200MW of the two Thermamarine power barges were accessed.

No Triple A conspiracy: Almendras

Meanwhile, Almendras denied allegations by militants from Bayan Muna of a "Triple A" -- Aquino Almendras Aboitiz---conspiracy in Mindanao, supposedly because the administration wants crony private companies to take over the power industry in the South.

"We favor no one. There are no special favors there,” Almendras stressed on Wednesday.

The energy chief said he won’t resign while his boss has not found a replacement for him. Almendras had earlier taken full responsibility for the Mindanao power crisis, amid finger-pointing among various sectors.

"I will not let the ball drop, not now," he said.