NPC chief vows 3.6-MW genset will run this week
posted 14-Jul-2018  ·  
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National Power Corporation (NPC) President Pio Benavidez has promised that the 3.6-megawatt diesel generator at its Marinawa power plant will be commissioned this week to bring relief to the brownout-plagued Catanduanes island grid.

This was disclosed to the Tribune last Friday by First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) General Manager Engr. Raul Zafe, who said that the NPC president visited the cooperative to personally make the commitment. The new deadline for the genset’s operation is about a week earlier than the NPC’s previous schedule.

Benavidez, who came here almost a year after he led the inauguration of the NPC’s substation and Virac-Codon transmission line, discussed the matter with the GM. Likewise, he reportedly met with Congressman Cesar Sarmiento for the same purpose.

If the NPC president makes good on his vow, the operation of the base-load genset previously operated by the Catanduanes Power Generation, Inc. (CPGI) will wipe out the power deficit in the grid that ranged from 1.7-megawatts to as much as 2.1 megawatts and lead to a more stable and reliable supply of electricity.

GM Zafe also bared that last Friday’s power outages that came in bunches and lasted for as long as eight hours in some parts of the grid was caused by the breakdown of one of the diesel gensets of Sunwest Water & Electricity Co. (SUWECO) at its Solong power plant as well as the breakdown of yet another one of NPC’s gensets at Marinawa.

The defective SUWECO genset, he said, experienced high temperature, prompting Solong personnel to shut it down.

The FICELCO manager also said that he would ask SUWECO to assist in shouldering part of the cost of upgrading the five-kilometer tie line between Balongbong mini-hydroelectric power plant and the Marinawa substation.

It may be recalled that last week, Zafe announced that the Board of Directors headed by its president, Director Alexander Ang Hung, has already given him the green light to proceed with the upgrading project that would cost about P2.6 million.

Unfortunately, it was learned that there was no specific allocation for the line upgrading project in the cooperative’s 2018 budget. The co-op management, it is claimed, would have to sacrifice approved programs of its various departments by reverting budget items and reallocating the “savings” for the line upgrading.

If the project gets enough funding and resources, there will be no need to implement a scheduled load shedding on Saturdays, GM Zafe clarified. Unlike the June 16 rehab work on the two spans on both ends of the tie line that necessitated an eight-hour brownout, the repair crew will reportedly bypass the current through another power line.

It may be recalled that Zafe was then operations and maintenance manager of FICELCO about 15 to 20 years ago when he designed the same tie line to carry the load of the 1.8-megawatt Balongbong hydro.

Sometime in 2010, the FICELCO board and management allowed the Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO) to connect its Solong mini-hydroelectric power plant to the Balongbong tie line, instead of letting the private company build its own dedicated line from Solong to the Marinawa substation.

This brought the total actual load of the tie line to over 3-MW, far above its 2-MW capacity. The subsequent operation of SUWECO’s Solong diesel power plant added another 5-MW to the already overloaded and undersized tie line, causing it to frequently overheat and trip the current protection system, GM Zafe explained.

The defect also resulted in widespread undervoltage in the current supplied to its customers’ homes and establishments, with voltage going down to as low as 180 volts in some towns and resulting in the breakdown of home appliances. It also affected the synchronization of the different power plants supplying the grid, causing cascading brownouts.

It is claimed that the replacement of the undersized tie line wires by the maximum size available in the market will raise its capacity to about 4.5 megawatts, still less than the ideal number.

Assuming SUWECO and FICELCO jointly files with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) its application for approval of the installation of an additional 6.6-megawatts of diesel gensets under the 2nd Amendment, the new gensets can no longer be installed at Solong to avoid overloading the same tie line.

On the other hand, GM Zafe said that he would also communicate to the board the urgent need to hire a new legal counsel to thresh out the legality of the questioned provisions of the Electricity Supply Agreements (ESA) entered into by FICELCO with its power suppliers.

Both ESAs currently in effect do not have penalty clauses and were reportedly approved and signed by the FICELCO directors without proper advice from its previous legal counsels.

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