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TransCo to operate off-grid power systems as directed by DoE chief

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By Angelica Y. Yang

THE Energy department has designated the state-led National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) as operator of off-grid power systems that have two or more suppliers, according to a memorandum issued by the agency early this month.

Over the weekend, TransCo has said that it has the technical capability to operate island grid systems, and that it has been gearing up for the assignment since last year.

In a Feb. 4 memo signed by Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, the agency directed the TransCo to serve as the “system operator (SO) of any small grid or off-grid system with more than 1 power supplier” as part of the mandates set by Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA) and its implementing rules and regulations.

It said that TransCo would be taking over the eligible off-grid systems that procure power from National Power Corp.’s (Napocor) small power utilities group, new power providers or franchised distribution utilities (DU).

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Off-grid areas are not connected to the national transmission system, any power distribution network or other related facilities.

“To ensure the smooth transition in the assumption of SO functions by TransCo, NEA (National Electrification Administration) shall see to it that the concerned ECs (electric cooperatives) will give their utmost cooperation and support to the former,” the memo stated.

The department also directed Napocor to help in implementing the directive, by providing relevant data on transmission facilities and operations to TransCo, and letting TransCo access and operate Napocor’s system.

“In case of other off-grid areas not covered by this Memorandum (such as those) with only one power supplier, the franchised DU shall continue to perform its mandate as off-grid SO,” the memo said.

The DoE further directed TransCo, Napocor and NEA to submit their plans and programs, which would contribute to the policy on the off-grid area SO, by Feb. 26.

The department’s memo was shared by NEA when the latter posted a separate memo on its website, directing all ECs to cooperate and support TransCo in its undertaking.

TransCo told BusinessWorld over the weekend that it can adequately perform the functions required of an SO for small and off-grid systems.

“TransCo is capable and is in the best position to perform as System Operator in off-grid or small grids to address the lingering power issues in many islands that are isolated from the main power grid, which were not given much attention in the past,” TransCo said in a statement on Saturday.

It said that it was able to retain its technical capability in power system planning, operation and control after its transmission business was privatized and turned over to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) 12 years ago.

State-led Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. turned over a 25-year concession contract to NGCP in 2009. This allowed privately-led NGCP to maintain and operate the country’s transmission system.

“Majority of the technical staff transferred to NGCP since NGCP had no personnel when they won the bid (for the concession contract). However, TransCo retained technical staff who are responsible in managing the concession contract,” TransCo said.

It said that it has a transmission management group that monitors and assesses transmission assets, projects and system operation. The group is also responsible for the review and monitoring of the Transmission Development Plan (TDP), which serves as a road map for the expansion of the country’s power transmission grid.

“TransCo continues to operate and maintain the power systems in the economic zones under the Authority of Freeport Area of Bataan in Mariveles, Bataan and the Baguio City Economic Zones of the Philippine Export Zone Authority,” it said.

“If the technical staff of TransCo would be tasked anytime to operate and control a power system whether it is (a) large or small grid, they will simply shift from ‘monitoring’ to ‘operating’ the grid,” it added.

TransCo said that it had been gearing up for the assignment since last year, and it is currently finalizing the corporate business plan which it would be submitting to the DoE by Feb. 26.

TransCo said that it was in the process of organizing an island or small grid system operation group, which would be staffed by existing personnel, and a manual detailing the technical procedures and operation for small grid systems.

It also said that it planned to set up island control centers and a national control center for island grid system operation.

It added that it would be recommending for the DoE to integrate an “Island Power Development Plan” (IPDP) into the Philippine Energy Plan.

“The IPDP shall contain the integrated generation, transmission and distribution development plans. We believe that this is the solution to the recurring problems of inadequate power supply in the islands and thus, the frequent and long duration brownouts. The island transmission plan is the key to the development of (a) reliable backbone delivery system and the interconnection to the main grid,” TransCo said.

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