By MIKE BAÑOS, Correspondent
COAL fired power plants can’t answer Mindanao’s immediate need for power which is why a growing group of advocates is pushing for solar power instead.
“As demonstrated by the series of yellow and red alerts in the Mindanao Grid these past few weeks, Mindanao’s power demand has now outstripped its supply and only solar power plants can be put online in time to close the growing demand-supply gap,” said Engr. David A. Tauli, spokesperson of the Mindanao Coalition of Power Consumers.
Mr. Tauli said it will only take 7-8 months to set up a sizable solar power plant compared to at least two years for a comparable oil-fired power plant.
He explained how PV plants would displace, or make unnecessary, the equivalent capacity of oil-fueled power plants, and do so with a rate impact on Mindanao consumers of only 2.28 centavos per kilowatt-hour (because the costs of the PV plants are distributed to all customers connected to the national grid, as mandated by the RE Law), as against the rate impact of at least fifty (50) centavos/kWh if oil-fueled plants were used to address the power crisis in the short term.
A coal-fired power plant, especially of the advanced technology types now being pushed by Conal Holdings and Aboitiz Power would take even longer at 5-7 years to become operational.
The Department of Energy (DOE) earlier expressed hope the Iligan Diesel Power Plant (IDPP) could come online to augment the Mindanao Grid with 95 megawatts but recent legal complications appear to have delayed this option.
The need to roll out the solar power plants has gained even more urgency following the recent spate of yellow and red alerts in the Mindanao Power Grid in the midst of the rainy season, something which has not happened with comparable frequency before.
Even now with normal water levels for Lake Lanao and the Pulangi River feeding the island’s hydroelectric power plants due to the ongoing episode of La Niña, the National Grid Corporation has already issued repeated Yellow and Red Alerts following the reduction of the Mindanao Grid’s ‘contingency reserves’ to zero, reduction in generation and imminent overloading of transmission lines due to preventive maintenance on two units of its largest generating plants. In August alone, the NGCP issued five Yellow and one Red Alerts.
“The recent declarations of Yellow or Red Alerts by NGCP further confirmed that Mindanao Grid has shortage of capacity necessary to provide the required Ancillary Services as specified in the Grid Code. This is not a good sign considering that we have ample rains and we don’t even have El Niño yet,” Mr. Tauli noted. “The construction of 100 MW of Solar PV power plants in Mindanao will significantly mitigate the shortage of power generation capacity that is now afflicting this part of the country, and is growing more serious with each passing year.”
Department of Energy (DOE) figures show electricity generation in 2010 was reduced by 6.33% (or 430 million kWh, excluding losses and station-use) compared to 2009. This reduction in generation represents the unserved electricity due to power supply shortage in Mindanao in 2010.
Estimated economic losses made by Cepalco’s Tariffs Dept. using the ratio of the Gross National Product (GNP) to the total kWh sold (or P144 per kWh in 2010 multiplied by the 430 million unserved kWh) in 2010 translates to P62 billion of economic losses for Mindanao.
Within the franchise area of CEPALCO covering Cagayan de Oro City and the municipalities of Tagoloan, Villanueva and Jasaan, Misamis Oriental, the reported total unserved energy of 15.6 million kWh translates to P2.2 billion of economic losses using the same ratio.
The number of yellow and red alerts is expected to rise further as demand for energy in the grid rises, even during the rainy season when there is usually sufficient water in Lake Lanao and the Pulangi River to run the Agus-Pulangi hydroelectric power plants which supplies some 55% of the power needed by the Mindanao Grid at full tilt.
“The proponents of coal plants say that there are no viable alternatives for their power projects.
There are enough renewable energy resources in Mindanao, mostly hydro power plants, to supply our power requirements for the next twenty to thirty years (at which point we expect solar power to become cheap enough to supply the requirements farther into the future),” Mr. Tauli added. (see more of Mr. Tauli’s Letter to the Editor on Page 5 of this issue)