Mindanao on power red alert due to bombed towers

(The Philippine Star) - January 4, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As work and classes resumed yesterday, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) placed the Mindanao grid on red alert after two units of the Agus Hydroelectric Power Plant were isolated due to bombings of transmission towers over the holidays.

The cost of repairing these facilities will be shouldered by power consumers in Mindanao, as the grid operator functions under the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC)’s methodology of rate-setting.

“Replacement cost of toppled or damaged towers are investment cost of NGCP. Hence, they are entitled to recover,” Department of Energy (DOE) Electric Power Industry Management Bureau director Mylene Capongcol said in a text message to The STAR.

This scheme is regulated and approved by the ERC, the country’s watchdog and regulator of the power industry, as authorized by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001.

ERC officials have yet to comment on the matter.

However, NGCP noted this is the regulation it inherited after it won the 25-year concession contract to run and operate the country’s power transmission highway in 2008. It assumed operations of National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) in January 2009.

ERC reviews the capital and operating expenditures, as well as recovery costs, applied by NGCP. It also sets certain standards for the grid operator to meet.

Under the performance incentive scheme (PIS) of the performance-based regulation (PBR), NGCP may be rewarded or penalized a monetary amount for exceeding or falling below performance targets.

“Under the PBR, NGCP is not allowed to decide on the mark-up costs and is only allowed to recover costs spent on repair and maintenance of transmission towers,” the grid operator said.

Yesterday, the grid operator declared red alert on the Mindanao grid with reserves falling below required levels due to the isolation of Agus 1 and 2. 

“As of 1 p.m., Jan. 4, net reserves are projected at -86 megawatts and -35 MW during afternoon and evening peak hours,” it said.

NGCP said it expected power consumption to spike as classes and work resume. Last Jan. 1, it placed the Mindanao grid on yellow alert despite lower power demand.

A yellow alert is a system condition where total of all reserves is less than 13.2 percent of the required capacity.  

Agus 1 and 2, with a combined maximum capacity of 150 MW, were disconnected from the Mindanao grid due to the bombing of Tower 25 along Agus 2-Kibawe 138kV line in Ramain, Lanao del Sur on Christmas Eve. 

NGCP stopped restoration of the tower due to failed negotiation with the owner of the property where the facility is located. The owner claimed government failed to pay his claims long ago. 

These incidents aggravate the power supply in Mindanao, which is experiencing several hours of rotational blackouts.

The grid operator earlier warned customers in Mindanao will experience longer rotational blackouts if this transmission facility will not be repaired as soon as possible.

Apart from the isolation of Agus 1 and 2, the Pulangi hydro facility can generate only around 100 MW of power due to technical constraints, while three units of Agus 6 hydro plant are on forced outage, further aggravating the supply situation.  

‘Identify perpetrators’

Meanwhile, the NGCP urged the public to report to authorities the armed groups behind the bombings of transmission towers.

In a full-page advertisement published in The STAR, NGCP said a total of 16 towers have been bombed as of November. The attacks have caused widespread blackouts in Mindanao.

NGCP noted that the bombing of transmission towers is against Republic Act 9372 or Human Security Act. The public is advised to report suspicious individuals and activities near NGCP facilities by sending a text message to 0917-8791077. – With Alexis Romero


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