ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES (ECs) in Mindanao need more support to serve more households and address the continued rotating brownouts in parts of the southern islands despite an average 1,000-megawatt (MW) surplus on the grid, according to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

Many areas are still “confronted with the sad reality that even with the excess supply of over 1,000 MW… there are rotating brownouts,” MinDA Deputy Executive Director Romeo M. Montenegro said during the Mindanao Power Forum 2021 held virtually last week.

Mindanao has an available capacity of about 2,700 MW with peak demand ranging from 1,700 to just over 2,000 MW daily, according to first quarter data from the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

“Areas that are currently having the trouble on the availability of electricity perhaps is on account of the ECs needing support… they have to be assisted and given focus on the way forward,” according to Mr. Montenegro, who also heads the technical working group of the inter-agency Mindanao Power Monitoring Committee.

There are 39 ECs operating in Mindanao, 34 of which are connected to the main grid.

Mr. Montenegro noted that these cooperatives have varying levels of financial and management capacity and are confronted with geographical and political challenges.

Sixteen of these electricity distributors are among the top 20 nationwide with the smallest rate of coverage as a proportion of potential connections.

The top five are located within the island provinces of Sulu and Tawi, and Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur in the mainland. All are under the Bangsamoro region.

The MinDA official said assisting these cooperatives will need “innovative financing” opportunities, among other support schemes.

He said the National Electrification Administration, which oversees ECs, and the Department of Energy can design suitable financing windows to be opened by government financial institutions.

MinDA is also calling for the establishment of the Local Power Development Advisory Group to enhance coordination between power sector actors and local government units for targeted solutions on specific community conditions.

Strengthening ECs, Mr. Montenegro said, is particularly crucial at this point as the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market in Mindanao is scheduled to finally open by June 26, about four years since it was launched.

NGCP is also expected to complete the Visayas-Mindanao interconnection project within the year, which will put Mindanao’s supply on the national system.

The Energy department’s Mindanao Energy Plan 2018-2040 aims to achieve 100% electrification in the south by 2030 from the current level of 70%. It projects demand of over 10,000 MW by 2040.

Mr. Montenegro said strengthening ECs is key to energizing Mindanao, especially the rural areas where the average electrification coverage is even lower at around 30%.

“We have to look at how else we can work collectively to be able to have everybody moving in the same direction, at the same pace, and enjoying the same benefits.” — Marifi S. Jara