Feb 272013

MANILA, Philippines – The power crisis that hobbled Mindanao last year may recur if the region’s baseload capacity is not increased soon, a government think tank said.

Based on a study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the Mindanao power crisis may stage a comeback in this year’s and next year’s summer season given that there had been no additions to the baseload capacity.

Baseload capacity refers to the generation units normally used to meet power demand round-the-clock.

PIDS senior research fellow Adoracion Navarro said in the summer of 2012, Mindanao experienced a crippling power crisis, which revealed the shoddy and fragmented state of energy infrastructure in the region as well as in the whole country.

Entering another summer period, attention is again rising because of the precariously low power supply, which is feared to put a brake on economic development.

“Businesses, for instance, have voiced concerns that the country’s energy situation may slow down and even stunt the country’s economic growth,” Navarro said.

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Consolidated forecasts for electricity demand for the period 2010-2019 show an annual average demand growth of 4.28 percent in Mindanao, which is higher than the national rate of 3.63 percent for the same period.

The Mindanao grid at present has 37.31-percent baseload generating capacity, a far cry from Luzon’s 63.94 percent and Visayas’ 71.88 percent, based on 2012 data from the Department of Energy (DOE).

Mindanao’s generating capacity is also heavily dependent on hydropower, which has become unreliable in the face of worsening deforestation of watersheds and siltation of river systems. Of the total 1,616 megawatts (MW) dependable generation capacity in Mindanao, 1,038 MW come from hydropower plants such as the Agus and Pulangui plants.

Navarro said Mindanao’s peak demand could reach 1,428 MW this year and 1,823 MW by 2019.

The study explains that to meet peak demand and, at the same time, maintain security and reliability of the power grid, generation capacity must not only correspond to peak demand but also provide for other ancillary services.

According to DOE, there should be a reserve margin of at least 21 percent of peak demand. The total generation capacity should be 1,728 MW in 2013 and 2,206 MW in 2019.

Ironically, the dependable capacity in Mindanao is now only 1,616 MW.

“This means that the power system could run a reserve shortfall of 112 MW for this year – a clear sign that last year’s power crisis may happen again,” Navarro said.

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