DAVAO CITY – A breakdown of a switchyard connected to the a government-run hydroelectric power plant triggered the Mindanao blackout dawn of Easter Sunday, according to an officer of the the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

Romeo Montenegro, director of MinDA’s office of Investment Promotions and Pubic Affairs, said that a “switchyard of the Agus 7 hydroelectric power plant broke down and triggered automatic shutdown” causing blackouts reportedly in almost all of Mindanao.

Montenegro said “that MinDA monitored the situation early morning after receiving reports that the brownout turned out to be grid-wide, especially affecting eastern section of Mindanao.”

Power from key Mindanao cities and provinces like Agusan,  Bukidnon, Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Davao del Norte, Davao City, Surigao, Socsksargends, and Zamboanga were cut-off at 1:01am, according to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

MinDA heads the multi-agency Mindanao Power Monitoring Committteee (MPMC).

The MPMC, according to the MinDA website, was created through Executive Order No. 81 “to spearhead and coordinate the efforts of the national, regional and local governments, and power industry stakeholders to improve the power situation in Mindanao.”

“According to the NGCP, grid was restored by 8am, and the large power plants synchronized starting 10am,” said Montenegro.

Montenegro said the “situation (is) back to normal but with derated capacity from Agus complex.”

The Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric complexes, located in Iligan, are the last remaining powerplants still owned by the government.

Montenegro said “derated” means “lower output but due to low water levels as expected every summer time.”

He said that “back to normal” is “relative to overall situation where power is back to most areas, as against blackout, which is usually caused by system failure as in the case early dawn.”

“Blackout is not necessarily caused by supply deficiency which is the one bringing about rotating brownouts,” he said.

Sheena Duazo, spokesperson of Bayan Southern Mindanao said the blackout is caused by “the utter neglect of the (Benigno Simeon) Aquino regime over the power sector.”

“The recent power interruptions are Aquino’s ‘rotten eggs’ for the Easter celebration.”

“The only thing rising today are the people’s queries as to why up till now, Davao and many other parts of Mindanao suffer from power problems, when Mindanao is known as an island full of energy sources,” said Duazo.

Duazo said “power interruptions may become the justification to privatize the energy sector” and claims “the Aquino’s wielding of emergency powers to fast track Private-Public-Partnership projects in the power business will only lead to increasing electric costs hikes and the lowering quality of power service.”

With regards to the Agus-Pulangi powerplants, Duazo said President Aquino “would have undertaken the rehabiliatation and upgrading of the current power plants in order to efficiently provide electricity.”

“The Agus-Pulangi powerplant now only generates 570 MW of power today, roughly half of the 1,000 MW it used to supply back then. With this problem Agus-Pulangi further sinks with the steps leading to privatization of the said powerplant, approved by Aquino,” Duazo said.

“We from BAYAN-SMR reiterate the call for the nationalization of the power industry, in order genuinely address the lapses in the provision of electricity, and for the ouster of the inutile Aquino, whose performance is as low as the energy service in the country,” said Duazo.

In a press release, MinDA Secretary Luwalhati Antonino said the Mindanao supply situation is “expected to have excess supply this year for the first since 2009, with the expected coming online of Therma South 300 Megawatts and the first 100MW out of 200MW from Sarangani Energy Corp.”

Antonino said that “2,000MW until 2018 should be complemented by accelerated deployment of renewable energy projects such as hydro, biomass, geothermal, and solar, among others.”

Data from the NGCP website says, as of April 2015, the current energy “mix” in Mindanao is Coal at 17.38 percent, Diesel, 30.2 percent, Geothermal 9.17 percent and Hydro at 43.26 per cent.

The NGCP website also shows that as of 6 am of April 5, 2015, the system capacity for Mindanao is 1350MW while the system peak is at 1249 MW and a gross reserve of 101 MW.

The NGCP’s supposed weekly outlook for Mindanao did not project a power defiency for April 5 as Mindanao’s capacity is at 1457MW while its projected system load is only at 1249MW or a gross reserve of 208MW.

However, the unexpected blackout still happened.

While the NGCP said it is “still investigating the cause and extent of the incident”, Montenegro said “as Mindanao awaits coming online of new power plants soon, consumers are urged to exert demand side management and conservation measures.” (davaotoday.com)

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