By Manuel Cayon - February 22, 2017
This time, it shifted to the western side, specifically the Cebu-Dipolog areas, as probable connection points, NGCP Spokesman Cynthia Alabanza said.
The Leyte-Surigao hydrology survey had turned out to be improbable due to “adverse factors”, including unexploded World War II ordnance and sunken warships.
The western connection was decided last year after scouting for probable connection points, as the government pursued the interconnection project, initially to relay excess electric supply from Luzon and the Visayas to power-starved Mindanao grid back then, she said.
But Mindanao appeared to be heading for an expected big excess of as much as 1,000 megawatts (MW) beginning next year, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said.
A feasibility study has been commissioned for this new connection prospect, and included a new hydrology profile study on the seabed terrain where the submarine cable would be laid.
The shortest timetable to finish the P52-billion interconnection project would be in December 2022, Alabanza said, adding the interconnection distance would cover about 100 kilometers of undersea cable.
She could not ascertain yet, however, on whether the NGCP would tap Filipino contractors to undertake the project, saying it would depend on the result of the bidding and the capability of the contractors.
Alabanza was here on Wednesday for a public consultation on the implementation of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market for Mindanao, the third leg of the road show before the target implementation by June this year.
The interconnection project has been started two decades ago, as Mindanao continued to reel on succeeding energy crisis over its high dependence on hydroelectric power and as El Niño began to wreak havoc with its longer cycles and shorter respite from each cycle.
“IT would be a sentimental journey back then, when we were talking about a deep shortage of power supply in Mindanao,” Alabanza said, stressing that the intention of the interconnection project with Leyte as the connection point “was to bring excess power from Luzon and the Visayas to Mindanao.”
“But now, we may be expecting mutual and two-way transmission of supply, including from Mindanao to other areas like, including Luzon, probably,” she said.
In the same consultation and news briefing, Romeo Montenegro, public affairs chief of the MinDA, said Mindanao would expect supply to be in excess by about 1,000 MW, when the Ayala-owned coal plant in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, will go online with the Mindanao grid.
The said coal plant alone, he said, has a capacity of 540 MW, with 160 MW expected to be available by the end of this year, he said.
Several areas, like General Santos City and Digos City, were already in excess since two years ago, after new investors established their own bunker fuel-run generating plants, and a solar plant in Digos City.
These cities were among the areas that experienced in as much as eight hours of long blackouts during the power crisis periods in the last two decades. The last severe power shortage in 2015 affected even Davao City, which used to have backup sources.
Montenegro said the Department of Energy has also received applications for 260 projects to develop renewable-energy projects that would generate 3,000 MW, but these projects may still take a long time to start over technical and documentary requirements.
He said, though, that the “competitive” or higher electricity rates here have also attracted investors to Mindanao, “due to the reduction of the cheap hydroelectric power in the profile of the energy mix in the Mindanao grid”.
From 90-percent dependency of the Mindanao grid to the hydroelectric-power plants in the Agus River in the Lanao provinces and Pulangui River in Bukidnon, the aging plants have also forced the decline in production capacity that brought it down to only 30-percent composition of the grid.
With new plants, mostly ran on coal and bunker fuel, the grid now has an installed capacity of 3,000 MW, with dependable capacity at 2,500 MW. The demand was running at 1,600 MW.