Cebu bizmen to government: Build reserve power supply

By Victor Anthony V. Silva July 12,2017

A Visayan Electric Co. (Veco) lineman repairs a transformer on A.S. Fortuna, Mandaue City in this file photo taken in May 2014. Veco, even as it keeps its power distribution system in top shape, has to implement a 1.5-hour rotational brownouts due to the power shortfall after the Leyte geothermal power plants were damaged by a 6.5-magnitude quake on July 6.

While facing a power crisis is not new to Cebu, local business leaders believe the present situation calls for additional investments in the energy sector in the Visayas to mitigate the effects of similar events in the future.

Glenn Soco, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), said there is a need to increase energy output as well as improve generation efficiency to attain growth targets, especially since force majeure events can happen again.

“This is nothing new to us. We have been beset by several power challenges in the past. Business has always remained resilient and adaptive to any power situation in Cebu and the Visayas,” he told Cebu Daily News in a text message.

A power shortage is now facing Cebu and the rest of the Visayas after a 6.5-magnitude earthquake last July 6 damaged geothermal power plants in Leyte, from which the Visayas grid draws most of its electricity supply.

The Energy Development Corporation (EDC), which owns majority of these plants, assured the public that preliminary repairs to these facilities will be completed by Monday, July 17. Power is expected to be restored by then in the provinces of Leyte, Southern Leyte, Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Biliran and Bohol.

On Tuesday, however, the Federation of Rural Electric Cooperatives in Region 8 (Frecor-8) involving the region’s 11 electric co-ops decided to declare a state of emergency after they were informed by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) that its attempt to link the region to power supplied from the Cebu-Negros-Panay areas has failed, with the situation aggravated by the 5.4-magnitude aftershock that occurred on July 10.

Frecor-8, in a statement, demanded from NGCP to provide ancillary power supply through provisions of power barges with 3 x 20 megawatts (MW) capacity coming from Cebu and Iloilo.

After noting that since there is no definite date when power in the region can be restored, the electric cooperatives are now constrained to procure emergency mobile/ modular generator sets to temporarily provide power to the region’s around 600,000 suffering consumers.

In Cebu, power was restored within an hour after the July 6 quake, but the Visayan Electric Company (Veco) has been implementing hour-long rotational brownouts in different parts of its franchise area since Friday due to the deficit in power supply.

On Wednesday, Veco was directed by the NGCP to extend the brownouts to one and a half hour due to an increase in the deficit, which stood at 119.3 megawatts for the evening peak. Veco’s curtailment share in the manual load shed earlier on Wednesday was 81.7 MW in the morning and afternoon due to a lack in power supply from solar farms in southern Cebu.

Today, Thursday, the NGCP projected the available capacity of the Visayas grid at 1,547 MW and the demand at 1,468 MW, but reserves are thin at 79 MW.

Spinning reserves

Gordon Alan Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club, said he was optimistic electricity services in the Visayas will resume normal operations soon.

“This is a temporary situation, but it does reflect the lack of reserve power — something which the NGCP is mandated to provide by maintaining spinning reserves,” he said.

A spinning reserve is the extra generating capacity made available by increasing the power output of generators that are already connected to the power system.

Joseph said there was a need for more generating capacity, but the NGCP has to contract reserve power.

“The NGCP has to incentivize additional capacity by contracting spinning reserves, although this would be an additional cost to them,” he said.

Department of Energy Central Visayas (DOE-7) Director Antonio Labios, for his part, said it has always been the agency’s policy objective to attract more investments in the power sector.

He said additional power capacity is necessary to cope with the region’s increasing demand for power.

As of May 31, 2017, there are 14 committed private sector–initiated power projects in the Visayas with a total committed rated capacity of 467.77 MW.

Among these are six biomass power plants in Negros Oriental; two solar power projects in Iloilo and in Toledo City, Cebu; three hydropower facilities in Iloilo, Bohol and Aklan; one geothermal plant in Biliran; one diesel plant in Negros Occidental; and one coal-fired power plant in Concepcion, Iloilo.

There are also more than 50 indicative private sector–led power projects in the Visayas with a total indicative rated capacity of 3,627.22 MW.

Power infrastructure

For Labios, the present power crisis in the Visayas calls for the need to pay attention to the resilience of power infrastructure in the country.

He added that there was also a need to create the DOE Task Force on Disaster Resilience, composed of the DOE Transcontinental, Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of Justice, NGCP and the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency.

Labios said the task force will be responsible for coordinating with other government agencies and private institutions for the development and adoption of resiliency programs.

The DOE recently called for comments on the draft resiliency policy entitled “Adoption of Resiliency Planning and Program in the Energy Industry to Mitigate Adverse Effects Brought About by Disasters.”

“The country is vitally dependent on the supply of energy and any sustained failure in the energy system would have drastic consequences and impact on the country’s economy and to people’s daily life,” the draft policy read.

Among the effects of disasters are the disruption in the delivery of energy to end-users due to damaged facilities, serious hazard to public health and safety, huge economic and financial losses, and interruption of vital public services.

The DOE said that while there are efforts to address disasters at various levels, most of the resources are directed at emergency response.

“In establishing concrete and sustained mechanism, it is necessary that planning and investment be required to ensure the nation’s energy infrastructure can continue to deliver high performance while anticipating and reducing vulnerabilities to adverse conditions and disruptive events,” the agency said.

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