Outages persist in Mindanao; 4 provinces hit

Published by rudy Date posted on March 10, 2014

HUNDREDS of thousands of residents in four Mindanao provinces continued to suffer from rolling blackouts over the weekend, but the Energy Department was still in the dark about the major systemwide outage that crippled almost the entire island on Feb. 27.

The rolling blackouts on Saturday and Sunday were felt in Butuan City, the hub of the Caraga region, and the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Sur.

Hundreds of thousands of residential houses and business establishments lost power over the weekend, after suffering rotational blackouts of two to three hours earlier in the week.

The blackouts affected operations in hospitals, stores, repair shops and gasoline stations, many of which did not have stand-by generators.

Businesses complained of millions of pesos of lost revenue amid the two-day power outages.

Electric cooperatives such as the Agusan del Norte Electric Cooperative, which supplies electricity to 86 barangays in Butuan City and 10 towns of Agusan del Sur, as well as the Surigao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Surneco), which supplies power to Surigao City and the rest of the province, atrributed the blackouts to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP). Next page

A Surneco advisory warned consumers that “the Mindanao grid is in critical condition due to the insufficiency of supply brought about by the forced outage of Steag Hydro Plants (210 megawatts installed capacity) and the reduced capacity of Pulangi Hydro Plants due to water constraints.”

The cooperative also said NGCP initiated emergency manual load dropping without prior notice to the affected distribution utilities in Mindanao.

“Because of this, we are totally dependent on the advise from NGCP in regard [to] our power load curtailment schedule

Surneco added that it could give no definite schedule of the blackouts.

On Siargao Island, a popular tourist destination, nine towns serviced by the Siargao Electric Cooperative have experienced rotational blackouts for several weeks.

Agusan del Sur Electric Cooperative (Aselco) in its public advisory, also pointed to NGCP, as did Surseco 1 and Surseco 2, which service the first and second districts of Surigao del Sur.

As Mindanao struggled with its power problems, the Energy Department said it would ask the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to shed light on the cause of the Feb. 27 systemwide blackout on the island.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla told reporters that an “electromechanical” fault from the power grid is hard to detect and that they needed the expertise of the DOST.

Petilla said he expected a full report from all the data gathered about the outage on Monday.

Petilla earlier said initial reports indicated that the tripping of the Mindanao power plants emanated from the breaker of the Agus 1 switchyard.

The breaker or the switchyard links the power plant to the transmission network.

As a consequence, the other power plants, with a combined capacity of 677.2 megawatts, also went offline, leading to a system collapse.

Petilla earlier ordered department and the National Transmission Corp. to gather all the facts to validate the reports from NGCP, the National Power Corp. and the independent power producers.

He directed National Grid and Napocor to reconcile their data and provide logs that contained the recorded sequence of events.

The system-wide blackout resulted in damage to Steag State Power Corp.’s 210 MW coal plant, which is expected to be offline until April, bringing three- to four-hour blackouts to the Mindanao grid. –Alvin T. Guanzon with Alena Mae S. Flores, Manila Standard Today

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