By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
TWIN power outages hit the entire Panay Island and portions of Negros Occidental in the past two days.
The first blackout struck Iloilo, Guimaras, Aklan, Capiz, and portions of Negros Occidental at around 5:27 p.m. Tuesday, Oct 29, 2019.
Based on information the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which operates transmission lines that deliver electricity from power plants to distribution utilities, it activated its protection after monitoring disturbance in the grid. This caused sudden loss of power supply to distributors in Panay and Negros.
The protection scheme was meant to shield NGCP transmission facilities from sudden fluctuations in the grid.
Transmission services normalized at around 8:57 p.m. and power supply was gradually restored in some of the affected areas.
According to Global Business Power Corp. (GBP), all coal-fired power plants of its subsidiary Panay Energy Development Corp (PEDC) tripped off at around 5:20 p.m., right after NGCP activated its protection schemes.
“At around 5:20 p.m., our PEDC units 1, 2 and 3 tripped off. We are investigating what is the possible cause of the blackout,” GBPC said in a statement.
NGCP Information Officer Michelle Visera said they are still investigating the cause of the power outage on Tuesday.
“Ang kagab-i nga incident under investigation, wala pa ta kabalo sang cause if NGCP or planta,” she said in an interview on Tuesday.
Power supply was fully restored at past 10 p.m. Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, the Negros-Panay 138-kilovolt (kV) submarine cable tripped off causing another massive power outage in the provinces of Panay Island.
According to GBPC, the sudden drop in system voltage and collapse of the grid affected its power plants in LaPaz, Iloilo City.
NGCP gradually restored power transmission services in Panay to protect the integrity of the transmission grid, and power transmission services were fully restored in the entire island at 10:11 a.m.
Before the submarine cable incident, power supply in Panay was limited because of the Tuesday blackout, according to Visera.
“Ang klaro kaina sang aga, before ya nagtrip ang submarine vehicle mga alas 8 bale kulang ang supply sang Panay because ang planta nga nagtrip kahapon, wala pa nakabalik or nakaconnect sa grid. Kaina 8 a.m. before sang incident, ang Panay gakuha power from Negros submarine cable, tapos pagtrip since kulang ang kuryente sa Panay although may planta pa man sa Panay, indi pa enough,” she explained.
As of this writing on Wednesday evening, Iloilo City’s power distributor, Panay Electric Company (PECO), said that about 30 to 40 percent of the city is still in darkness.
“60 to 70 percent may power but may 30 to 40 percent nga need pa supplayan. Halos all districts may power except ang gahulat sang kuryente amo ang whole of Arevalo and Mandurriao districts,” PECO Communications Manager Mikel Afzelius said.
Afzelius said they are ready to distribute power in the other areas in Iloilo City as long as there is supply coming from GBPC.
“As per Global Power, they mentioned na pwede nila masupplayan ang other areas of Iloilo City but ginapunggan sila sang NGCP to do that because NGCP nag-relay nga unstable ang ila supply amo na ginapunggan nila si GBP maubos supply until mastabilize nila ila transmission lines,” he explained.
Following the clamor of netizens against PECO, Afzelius reiterated that their only jurisdiction when it comes to the power distribution is the entire city of Iloilo.
“Our jurisdiction is only at the city of Iloilo. We are only an electric distribution company we’re not a power generator and transmission operator. Tagasalo lang kita sang kuryente, whatever is given or supplied to us, that is what we distribute, kon indi maka-supply ang power company sa aton, indi man naton ma-distribute,” he noted.
The “slow” normalization of power supply in Iloilo City raised queries on PECO’s backup or reserves which is a requirement for every distribution utility.
PECO has a 65-megawatt (MW) contract with PEDC and another 15MW contract level from the diesel-fired power plant of Panay Power Corp. (PPC), another GBPC subsidiary.
PPC acts as reserve or backup for PECO in the event that the coal-fired power plants are offline.
According to GBPC, under normal situations, PPC can dispatch the 15MW after getting cue from the System Operator (NGCP) or as scheduled by the Market Operator. The market operator being referred to here is the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market which is similar to the traditional stock market.
During islanding scenario when it is not connected to the NGCP system via PEDC, PPC may supply power to PECO depending on its available capacity.
When the Oct 29 blackout hit, GBPC said it utilized the contracted 15 MW plus the available capacity level of PPC.
Even if the diesel-plant starts up quicker than the PEDC plants, the stabilization of engine units and gradual loading of PECO feeders may take time.
Afzelius said short supply forced them to shed or drop their loads, which was a similar scenario in other Panay distributors like electric cooperatives.
He added that in restoring the supply, they prioritized areas that lack generator sets which are present in major development areas.