Minda needs mixed power supply—DOE

By Lorie A. Cascaro

To address its power situation, Mindanao requires a blending of technologies for power generation, which include hydro, gas, oil-based, coal-fired and geothermal power plants among others, Department of Energy (DOE) Undersecretary Ina Magpale-Asirit said last Tuesday.
Addressing a stakeholders meeting at the Grand Regal Hotel, Davao City, Asirit said that in terms of generation mix, Mindanao lacks base-load power that operates continuously, 24 hours a day, and seven days a week with a consistent maximum generating capacity.
Mindanao has only 17% base-load power compared to the Visayas which has  70%.
Although hydro power plants comprise 56% of the power generation capacity of Mindanao, they are not considered base-load.
It is so because of the “seasonality of natural resource” which, according to her, makes the power supply inconsistent.
Noting the limited capacity of dams to store enough water needed, she cited other factors contributing to their limitations, such as management of water level, projected rainfall and dam protocol.
As a long term solution to the power shortage, a total of 250MW base-load power is committed to come in by 2014, which is a combination of 200MW coal-fired and 50MW geothermal power plants.
Another coal-fired power plant to generate 500MW is in the indicative stage, which means it has not submitted regulatory compliance requirements to the DOE yet.
Also at indicative stage is a total of 297MW power supply, which will be generated by mini-hydro, biomass, and solar power plants.
This solution has a high cost but she said this will not be forever as other technologies will come in by 2014.
While the cost is inevitable, she clarified to the stakeholders that it is manageable when passed on to consumers.
She cited the consumption of an electric cooperative which utilizes mixed generation, having additional cost of P.50 to P.80 to be charged to consumers on top of the existing power rate.
Power shortage in Mindanao was pulled down to 100 MW as of Monday as the result of the issuance of Department Circular 2012-03-0004, which directs electric cooperatives to nominate their needed power to supply their demands.
Out of 27 electric cooperatives, only nine still have rotational brownouts (with 30 minutes to two hours long) but are now in the process of contracting with power services for additional supply.
While the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, Panabo and Cotabato have not experienced power outages, Malaybalay, Dipolog, Dapitan, Valencia, Camiguin, Panabo, Digos, Tagum, Mati, Surigao, Butuan, and Cabadbaran are not experiencing power interruptions now.

Noting the importance of nomination and dispatch protocol for better planning, she said the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines needs to match the demand and the supply of power like in a balancing act.
Also, DOE said the power situation in Mindanao is expected to improve as electric cooperatives were given provisional authorities for the bilateral power service by the Energy Regulatory Commission.
So far, electric cooperatives have already contracted a total of 192 MW.
Considering hydro power plants as important sources of cheap energy, costing about P3.30-3.50 per kilowatt hour as pegged by the National Power Corporation (NPC), the DOE pushed for the repair of the Pulangi plants.
The schedule of repair is being held until April 19 to wait for the expected generation capacity, but to delay it further will cause greater damage, Asirit said. 
Historically, April and May have the lowest water elevation for Pulangi. Its usual 180MW capacity will be cut down to 100-130MW during this period, thus, the repair is timely.
Being pushed by the DOE since 2010, the rehabilitation of Agus plant will begin in June with P2.6 billion budget approved by the National Economic and Development Authority.