Written by : FRANCIS EARL A. CUETO
FORMER Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri warned of “catastrophic brownouts” in Mindanao within five weeks, unless the government moves fast to fix the island’s massive power supply deficit.
In a letter to Energy Secretary Jose Almendras, Zubiri expressed alarm over the current two-to four-hour daily brownouts in many parts of Mindanao, which he said “could worsen into power outages of up to eight hours by April, on account of increased demand associated with the summer season.”
To effectively cure Mindanao’s power supply shortage, Zubiri suggested the following remedies: the temporary deployment of additional power barges to reinforce supply in affected areas in Mindanao; the use of the renewable energy trust fund to grant incentives to entities prepared to install and deliver new biomass, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and/or ocean power supplies, exclusively for Mindanao, in six to 18 months; and the energy sector’s retention in the Investment Priorities Plan of the Board of Investments, in order to attract fresh capital needed to quickly grow Mindanao’s power supply.
In his letter to Almendras, Zubiri said he was driven to offer his proposals because “the people of Mindanao find it increasingly burdensome to carry out our daily household and business activities, let alone grow our employment-generating industries, in light of the highly disruptive power outages.”
A report by the National Grid Corp. showed that as of February 24, Mindanao has a deficit of 67 megawatts (MWs), based on available generating capacity of 1,159 MWs versus system peak demand of 1,226 MWs.
“However, references to menacing brownouts of up eight hours daily by April imply a real supply deficit of roughly 21.8 percent, or 268 MWs, without counting the 25 percent allowance required for Mindanao to enjoy gross power reserves that match those of Luzon and the Visayas,” Zubiri said.
Luzon has gross power reserves of 22.3 percent, or 1,456 MWs, with available capacity of 7,991 MWs versus system peak demand of 6,535 MWs.
The Visayas has gross power reserves of 27.8 percent, or 376 MWs, with available capacity of 1,727 MWs versus system peak demand of 1,351 MWs.
“Government may have to willfully encourage entities seeking to avail of Renewable Energy Law incentives to go to Mindanao, where there is a clear and urgent lack of reliable generating capacity, instead of installing their facilities in Luzon or the Visayas, which both have ample power supplies,” Zubiri said.
A native of Bukidnon, Zubiri is one-time chairman of the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, and author of the Renewable Energy Law of 2008.
Under the law, an initial P2 billion was provided to “support the development and operation of new renewable resources to improve their competitiveness in the market.”
Money out of the fund may be used as grants, loans, equity investments, credit guarantees, insurance, counterpart fund or such other financial arrangements.
The fund is being supported by emission fees from all generating facilities under the Clean Air Act, and mandatory contributions from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., and the Philippine National Oil Co., as well as royalties from the exploitation of indigenous non-renewable energy sources, such as natural gas.