By Victor Anthony V. Silva July 09,2017

LANDSLIDE PRONE AREA. Residents of Sitio Tawagan Dos of Barangay Sirao, a mountain village of Cebu City, have to walk through what used to be their road, which was damaged during the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that hit Leyte and was felt at Intensity 5 in Cebu. Many of the residents in the area have abandoned their damaged homes (background) as of July 9, 2017, the day this photo is taken. Story on page 5.

Power is expected to be restored in more areas in Eastern Visayas, albeit temporarily, once the grid starts supplying power to these localities through a bypass line that connects to Cebu.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), in a statement on Sunday, said testing was currently ongoing at its Ormoc Substation before allowing power to flow through the Tabango-Ormoc bypass line, which was completed on Saturday.

“Once testing is successful, Samar, Leyte, Biliran and Bohol (provinces) will receive power from Cebu,” the NGCP said.

Right now, only those that are part of the franchise areas of Leyte V Electric Cooperative (Leyeco V) are getting power supply from Cebu through the Tabango Substation, while the rest of the towns in Leyte have zero power.

Leyeco V has been connected to Cebu via the Tabango Substation even before the earthquake occurred last July 6 and have since restored its electricity supply to its franchise areas. Leyeco V covers Ormoc City and the towns of Merida, Isabel, Palompon, Villaba, Tabango, San Isidro, Calubi-an, Leyte, Matag-ob, Kananga and Albuera.

Distribution utilities in Bohol, which also lost power following the magnitude 6.5 earthquake, have arranged to source power from the Bohol diesel power plant and two hydropower plants owned by the Bohol 1 Electric Cooperative (Boheco I).

“They (Bohol and Leyeco V) have rationing, but at least they have power. In Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Samar, and the rest of Leyte, they have no power at all,” said Betty Martinez, NGCP Visayas spokesperson.

The Leyte provinces, Samar provinces, Bohol and Biliran normally get their power supply from the geothermal plants in Leyte owned by the Energy Development Corp. (EDC), but EDC shut down their plants after they were damaged by the earthquake that hit Leyte, which was also felt in a wide area in Eastern Visayas and even extended to Cebu.

In a statement on Saturday, EDC said it could resume supplying 317 megawatts (MW) to the Visayas grid within the next 10 days when the repairs have been completed.

The Ormoc Substation delivers power to Bohol and Eastern Visayas through the Marshaling switch station, owned by the EDC and is still undergoing repairs.

“We established another route so power that exits from Cebu will go to Tabango (Leyte) and then straight to Ormoc,” explained Betty Martinez.

Because provinces in the Visayas are interconnected, she said that power that will be supplied to Bohol, Leyte, Samar and Biliran will not only come from Cebu but may also include power generated from Negros and Panay.

Temporary solution

While this was a welcome development, Martinez said this was only temporary while geothermal sources are still unavailable.

“At least more towns will be energized, although this is not the normal full supply,” she said.

The NGCP’s system operations division will meet with affected customers today, the same time the bypass line is expected to start operating, Martinez said.

Among those that will be part of the discussion are representatives of Leyeco II, III, IV; Biliran Electric Cooperative; Samar I Electric Cooperative (Samelco I) and Samelco II; Northern Samar Electric Cooperative; Eastern Samar Electric Cooperative; Southern Leyte Electric Cooperative; and the three utilities in Bohol.

“We will be presenting to them the proposed allocation and sharing scheme. There is a need for rationing since we still do not have full supply. We will also determine the expected demands in Cebu, Negros, and Panay so we will know how much power we can direct to the affected provinces,” Martinez said.

Cebu shortfall

In Cebu, the Visayan Electric Company (Veco) was forced to implement an hour-long power rotation since Friday due to a drop in power supply due to the damaged facilities in Leyte. Last Saturday, the deficit stood at 53.1 MW.

Veco, the second largest power utility in the country next to the Manila Electric Company, serves the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay and Naga, and the towns of Liloan, Consolacion, Minglanilla, and San Fernando. Its daily demand ranges from 400 MW to 500 MW.

Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president Glenn Soco said that while the rotational brownouts had minimal impact on businesses in Cebu, he was concerned about the small entrepreneurs.

“It’s really more towards the micro enterprises that do not have generator sets. Brownouts always cause discomfort and inconvenience,” he said.

Philip Tan, MCCI past president, said Cebu has been through this kind of situation countless times.

“Businesses will have to adjust, like production will be shifted to night time when power is available or activate our stand-by generators,” said Tan, adding that businesses will either absorb this shock or pass on the cost to its consumers.

Robert Go, president of the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) in Cebu, said major industries in Cebu such as the business process outsourcing sector are protected because of back-up generators.

The business leader said he was confident power will slowly normalize in the coming days.

He added that retailers and malls can start using their own generator sets to alleviate pressure on the grid.

“Voluntary curtailment during peak hours can cut the need for supply and, thus, could help normalize our power situation,” said Go.

The voluntary self-generating scheme is part of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) of the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Under the program, businesses with generator sets may be asked by power distributors to use their equipment to ease demand from the grid, thus helping prevent power outages.

Quennie Sanchez-Bronce, reputation enhancement manager of Veco, earlier said three private groups in Cebu have switched to their own generating units after the earthquake — cement-maker Cemex, SM malls, and Chong Hua Hospital.

The distribution utility has implemented rotational brownouts on Friday and Saturday, but there were no scheduled power interruptions on Sunday.

“It is NGCP that tells Veco if we have to implement rotational brownouts because power supply is low. But during weekends, demand for power is usually lower than during the weekdays,” Bronce explained.

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