By: Ador Vincent S. Mayol, Connie Fernandez July 08,2017 - 11:29 PM

LIGHTS OUT. Business establishments along Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City, keep minimal lighting at night, a practice that comes handy as the Visayan Electric Company urges commercial building operators and households in Metro Cebu to do their share in addressing the power supply shortage in the Visayas, which resulted from the shutdown of the geothermal power facilities in Ormoc City following the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that hit Leyte on July 6, 2017.

Cebuanos are urged to do their share in addressing the shortage of power supply in the Visayas as it might take at least 10 days to repair the damage caused by Thursday’s earthquake on the geothermal power plants in Leyte.

“Since there is a power shortage, we really have to conserve and save energy,” said Queenie Sanchez-Bronce, reputation enhancement manager of the Visayan Electric Company (Veco), the power distributor in Metro Cebu.

Veco, the second-largest power utility in the country next to Manila Electric Company (Meralco), 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 to 500 megawatts (MW).

But the power utility was forced to implement an hour-long power rotation starting Friday due to a drop in power supply. On Saturday, the deficit stood at 53.1 MW.

Power shortage was also felt on Mactan Island, a tourist destination known for its beach resorts.

“We hope that the problem will be addressed as soon as possible. People don’t want to feel uncomfortable due to brownouts,” said Jacinta Rusiana, administrative supervisor of the Mactan Electric Company (Meco).

Bronce said it will be up to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which earlier requested for the rotational power outages, to allow the normal distribution of electricity to the households and business establishments.

Betty Martinez, NGCP-Visayas spokesperson, said the power supply in Cebu would stabilize only when the geothermal power plants in Leyte are restored.

“Parts of the Visayas are experiencing rotational brownouts after the geothermal power plants in Leyte were affected by the earthquake. We’re waiting when these power plants will be repaired,” she told CDN in a phone interview on Saturday.

“The situations in Leyte and Cebu are tied. The power supply in Cebu will stabilize upon completion of the efforts to restore the power plants in Leyte,” she added.

Geothermal power plants operated by the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) in Barangay Tongonan, Ormoc City in Leyte, were damaged when the province was rocked by magnitude 6.5 earthquake on Thursday.

In a statement on Saturday, EDC said it could resume supplying 317 MW to the Visayas grid within the next 10 days when the repairs have been completed. (see more of the story on p. 8)

In the meantime, Bronce appealed to the public to conserve energy in the wake of the power shortage.

“If possible, do not use air-cons (air-conditioning units) at home at this point in time. And if appliances are not in use, make sure to unplug them. It will help conserve power,” she said.

She also encouraged households to use flat irons sparingly.

“For now, the rotational brownouts will continue. Places will have to take turns in utilizing the amount of power we have,” Bronce explained.

Big firms use generator sets

So far, three private companies agreed to voluntarily use their own generator sets to help address the power supply shortage in Cebu and the rest of the Visayas.

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 voluntary ILP, 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.

Bronce 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.

“We also encouraged other private entities to do the same,” she said.

Melanie Ng, president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, expressed willingness to cooperate in whatever way to address the power supply shortfall.

“We do know that there is a concern about the power supply. We will make sure we study the problem and come up with measures to mitigate the problem,” she told CDN over the phone.

Most of the business establishments in Cebu, especially those who are into manufacturing, have their own generator sets.

Ng said private firms are ready to use their own generator sets for the good of the general public.

“I’m sure the business community will cooperate to address the problem. We are concerned with what is happening, and we want to make sure that we are able to help in whatever capacity we can,” she said.

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