Power troubles ease for Mindanao but holidays at yearend raise demand

Posted on November 25, 2015

DAVAO CITY -- Mindanao’s power supply situation improved yesterday with the resumption of STEAG State Power, Inc.’s full operation of its two coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 205 megawatts (MW), but the main grid remains 127 MW short of peak demand.

An official of Davao Light and Power Co. (DavaoLight), the biggest buyer from the Mindanao grid with a contracted supply of 273 MW apart from its other off-grid sources for the 340 MW demand in its franchise areas, said customers should brace for possible continued rotating brownouts until next month with increased demand around Christmas.

“I hope there are no rotating brownouts during the holidays because NGCP (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines) has done its (preventive maintenance service). We’re just crossing our fingers,” Davao Light Executive Vice-President and Chief Executive Officer Arturo M. Milan said in an interview.

The NGCP is the operator of the national grid.

Mr. Milan said the company is also implementing an information drive for customers to use electricity more efficiently.

“Use electricity very wisely so that you can help us during this period of very tight power supply,” Mr. Milan appealed to consumers, “We hope (the preventive maintenance) will also help prepare for the holidays, but I’m not very sure. So we just have to brace and manage the way we use electricity.”

STEAG shut down one of its plants over the weekend for preventive maintenance, which was completed on Monday evening.

Off-grid supplier Therma Marine, Inc., which supplies 65 MW to DavaoLight, is also currently undertaking maintenance work and is expected to be in full operation by Dec. 1.

However, several other plants, including the new coal-fired power plant of Therma South, Inc. (TSI) and one of the hydropower plants of Hedcor, Inc. are currently on emergency shutdown.

Mr. Milan said the period to June 2016 will be difficult for Mindanao, which relies on hydropower for more than 50% of its supply, due to the prevailing El Niño.

“We really have to brace for the effect of this (El Niño), especially in the water level of our hydros Angus and Pulangi. So we just keep on praying that Mindanao will experience regular rainfall to replenish our water (in the) hydropower complexes,” he said.

Mr. Milan is also hopeful that the new coal-fired power sources under different stages of completion will be able to start operating earlier than scheduled.

“We hope these new capacities will enter sooner so that we can really stabilize the power supply in Mindanao,” Mr. Milan said, referring to the generating plants of TSI (second unit), Alsons Power Group’s Sarangani Energy Corp., SMC Global Power Holdings, Inc., and the Filinnvest group’s FDC Utilities, Inc.

These new plants are expected to be partly or fully online within 2016. -- Maya M. Padillo