FIVE MORE DAYS
Energy chief assures power back by Monday with work on Leyte power plants done by then
Just a few more days.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Tuesday said electricity services would be back in quake-affected areas by July 17 with the expected completion of preliminary repairs to power plants, particularly those of Energy Development Corp. (EDC) in Leyte.
In the meantime, the Visayan Electric Company (Veco) urged its consumers in Metro Cebu to be patient and understanding as the one-hour rotational brownouts would continue until the power supply stabilized.
“Since we are all sharing the burden, we are going to make it one hour, at most one and a half, but that is rare,” said Veco Chief Operating Officer Anton Mari Perdices in a press conference on Tuesday, referring to the duration of power interruptions Veco had been implementing since Friday.
Rotational brownouts may happen in three peak hours, said Veco system operations head Juan Miguel Exaltacion.
These were 8 a.m. to noon; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.; and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. or until the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) lifts the notification for manual load dropping.
During simultaneous tripping, establishments within the Cebu Business Park, Barangay Bacayan in Cebu City, Barangay Lawaan in Talisay and areas going to Minglanilla town are affected in the morning while Cebu City’s downtown area, Ermita, Guadalupe and Escario may experience brownouts in the afternoon.
The areas are grouped according to the density of consumers as well as the demand, but the cycle would be shuffled every day to be fair to all of Veco’s customers.
Most of Cebu’s power, which Veco distributes to homes and business establishments, comes from geothermal plants in Leyte.
But the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck parts of the Visayas on July 6 damaged EDC’s geothermal power plants in Barangay Tongonan, Ormoc City, Leyte.
Cusi, however, said that the EDC had committed to bring back the delivery of 317 megawatts (MW) on the 10th day.
EDC’s target is about half the aggregate capacity of 625 MW from its geothermal power plants, which include the 180-MW Mahanagdong plant, 213-MW Malitbog plant, 120-MW Mahiao plant and the 112.5-MW Tongonan plant.
“EDC has also distributed generator sets to vital town installations, such as municipal/city halls, water pumping stations, hospitals, among others, so they can continue their delivery of services,” Cusi said.
He said the Department of Energy (DOE) was also in talks with alternative power providers, such as Trans Asia or Phinma Energy Corp., to mobilize the power barges to be brought to Leyte and Bohol.
According to the NGCP, it was working with EDC in preparing for the energization of the latter’s marshalling substation or central switching station in Kananga town, also in Leyte, which connects EDC’s power plants to NGCP’s transmission lines.
“Once EDC completes testing and receives feedback power, the Upper Mahiao and Malitbog geothermal plants, with a combined capacity of 129.5 megawatts, will be energized and ready to supply power after 16-18 hours of preparation,” NGCP said in a separate statement.
Also, NGCP said testing in its Ormoc Substation showed that all six transformers sustained damage from the earthquake.
“NGCP is now planning to transport transformers from Cebu to Ormoc Substation in order to replace the damaged transformers to be able to accommodate excess power supply from Cebu, if any, and distribute to the affected islands of Leyte, Samar, Bohol, and Biliran,” the company said.
Since the earthquake, Veco was not getting 57 MW from the Leyte plants.
The NGCP line that connects the Luzon Grid to the Visayas Grid was also affected by the quake, preventing 50 MW of power from a Batangas-based coal plant to travel to Veco’s substations for distribution.
The Naga City–based Kepco-SPC Power Corp. (Kepco), from which Veco gets 100 MW of power, was also undergoing preventive maintenance scheduled even before the earthquake last week.
The distribution utility has asked the power plant, through NGCP, to fast-track the resumption of its operations as the initial target date of reenergization was still on July 20.
With scarcity of power supply, Perdices said the power utility would continue with manual load dropping (MLD), a mechanism used to distribute limited supply of power in a given area for a certain period of time.
On Tuesday, Veco posted on its Facebook page a list of possible feeders, along with areas connected to these feeders, that may be affected once the NGCP informed the utility to drop its load.
On average, demand for power within Veco’s franchise area ranges from 400 to 500 MW.
But last Monday, the supply deficit reached 108.5 MW in the morning and increased to 155 MW in the evening.
As a result, there were areas that experienced two power outages during the day at one hour each.
“What happened on Monday was there was such a drop in the supply that we had to reset and start from the beginning,” Perdices said.
Tuesday’s peak demand ranged from 450 to 460 MW, which was lower than the usual because of the morning rain.
Exaltacion said Veco’s big corporate clients agreed to switch to their own generator sets under the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) which greatly lessened the frequency of power interruptions in the metro.
Among these companies were Cemex, Mabuhay, San Miguel, Waterfront Cebu City Hotel and Casino, SM malls and Ayala Center Cebu.
“They have taken 20 MW, which is quite a big amount of demand curtailed. This can save five residential feeders,” said Exaltacion.
There are currently 30 to 40 Cebu-based companies registered in the ILP.
On top of the rotational brownouts due to low power supply, there may also be power interruptions because of various factors like lines that tripped, fallen poles, among others.
The distribution utility is ready to receive calls regarding interruptions and will check whether it is related to manual load dropping. Otherwise, it will send a crew within 30 minutes to check the problem and resolve it within one hour.
Veco, the second-largest power distributor next to the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), handles 450,000 accounts (roughly 2.5 million people) in the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, Talisay and Naga, and the towns of Liloan, Consolacion, Minglanilla and San Fernando.
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