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Cagayan de Oro
Saturday, May 21, 2022

Dark Undas Weekend Looms

A confluence of unexpected and expected events are pushing the power supply in the Mindanao Grid to the edge of crisis and all but guarantees a long, dark weekend for consumers as they head to the cemeteries for the All Saints-All Souls Day weekend.


Saboteurs who bombed two transmission towers of the state-owned power grid apparently knew just when to time it because it happened just as a previously scheduled preventive maintenance of the island’s largest power plant fell due.


“All is set for the planned preventive maintenance schedule (PMS) of Unit 2 from October 31 to November 2,” said Jerome R. Soldevilla, communications officer of the STEAG State Power Inc. (SPI) at the Phividec Industrial Estate, Villanueva, Misamis Oriental. The coal fired power plant has two units producing 105 MW each, and at present is the largest power generating plant in Mindanao.


Industry sources earlier said it would take at least a week to repair and restore Transmission Towers 19 and 20 in Patani, Marawi City along the Agus 2-Kibawe line which were bombed around 9:20PM Thursday evening, 29 October and put out of commission with improvised explosive devices (IED).


As a result, the Mindanao Grid has lost power supply from both the Agus 1 (80MW) and Agus 2 (180MW) hydroelectric power plants which were isolated since other lines for grid connections had already decommissioned due to trees and other obstructions deliberately planted by landowners in District 2, Lanao del Sur.


The Mindanao Grid faced a deficit of 150MW as of Friday, 30 October 2015. This is expected to climb further to 250MW with the planned PMS of SPI’s Unit 2 for the next three days.


“We can no longer move this scheduled PMS because all the needed technical experts, materials and parts have already been prepared,” Soldevilla said.


“The mechanism for information is the Mindanao Grid Management Committee,” he explained further. “All generating companies (Gencos), NPC/PSLAM and NGCP meet quarterly to discuss among other things, the scheduled PMS year round to assure proper coordination. This scheduled PMS would have not adversely affected the grid because it’s scheduled on a weekend. It’s just unfortunate the Marawi bombings coincided with it.”


The loss of 260MW from the Mindanao Grid will mean the resumption of rotating brownouts all across the island even within franchise areas of distribution utilities with embedded generators since the slack is too great and can only be dealt with manual road dropping by the DUs. Industry sources estimate it will take over a week to restore power through the Agus 2-Kibawe line.


“PSALM only gave us 50+MW and other IPPs another 50MW, so our short would be about 70MW during peak periods,” said Jaime Rafael U. Paguio, Senior Vice President of the Cagayan Power & Light Co. (CEPALCO) in an SMS to this writer. “We will have to curtail and already activated our Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to bolster our supply.  However, we will have to impose rotating brownouts for the duration.”


However, the Iligan Light and Power Company (ILPI) report it has not had to resort to rotating brownouts since its power supply is still adequate despite the curtailment.


“We’re getting an additional 22 MW from Mapalad Power Corporation (MPC) and embedded Mapalad Energy Generating Corp. (MEGC),” said Ralph B. Casiño, ILPI President. “We have also asked our industrial consumers to curtail their power consumption for the duration of the emergency so as not to affect the residential consumers.”


The Iligan City Council has also declared November 2 as a holiday hence Casiño expects the load for the day to be even lower with most people heading for the cemeteries, unlike in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental.


“Hopefully the load won’t be so high because of the holidays,” Casiño added. “God save us all!”


Meantime, the Misamis Oriental Rural Electric Service Cooperative 1 (MORESCO-1) also disclosed it has not imposed any rotational brownouts and expects to keep it that way through the weekend.


Marabec O. Cagalawan, MORESCO-1 corporate public relations officer, said the situation in their franchise area has been relieved by the voluntary curtailment of participating industrial consumers through its ILP like Asia Brewery, Inc. (ABI), Regent, Daichi and Holcim, the largest industrial consumer in the Mindanao Grid, which curtailed its normal 26.5 MW allocation to only 10.5MW for the duration.


“Our 2MW embedded modular genset has also been a big help,” she added.


The power shortage has been aggravated by the lack of concrete government action against errant landowners in District 2 of the Mindanao Grid in Lanao del Norte.


Landowners in District 2 of the Mindanao grid in the vicinity of Balo-I, Lanao del Norte have planted trees under the Right-of-Way(ROW) of transmission lines operated by the NGCP that have now grown to heights that trigger faults in the power lines linking the hydroelectric power plants in Iligan City and Lanao del Sur to the Mindanao grid.


Already, the growing trees have forced NGCP to condemn its lower transmission lines along some lines from Agus 1 & 2 since the branches were already causing continuous faults along the line and could not be operated reliably. Landowners along the affected areas have refused NGCP linemen access to the affected areas.


Last Tuesday, 27 October 2015,  almost 30 megawatts (MW) supplied by the Agus 1 hydroelectric plant was isolated from the Mindanao grid as a landowner identified as Mitmug Dimaampao refused NGCP linemen entry to his property to conduct line maintenance and repair activities.

Dimaampao had previously barred NGCP linemen from entering his property to trim trees he himself planted which obstruct the transmission lines. The tie line was finally energized at the Agus 2 switchyard side at 11:37AM.


Earlier last 17 October NGCP’s right-of-way (ROW) woes breached critical level with the sustained tripping of the Agus 2-Kibawe Line 1 in Mindanao at 9:39AM on October 17 again, due to trees deliberately planted by landowners.

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