Coal-fired plants taking up slack from Mindanao hydropower during El Niño

By Carmelito Q. Francisco – April 3, 2019 | 10:18 pm
from Business World

air pollution climate change

DAVAO CITY — Mindanao’s shift in recent years to more power generated by coal-fired plants is for now saving the southern Philippines from energy problems caused by the El Niño dry spell.

“Mindanao’s current energy mix and supply status may be able to spare Mindanao from the effects of long dry spell to our power situation,” Romeo M. Montenegro, deputy executive director of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), told BusinessWorld on Wednesday.

As of April 3, Mindanao had a power reserve of 569 megawatts (MW) with capacity at 2,369 MW and peak demand of 1,800 MW, based on data from the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines.

About 70% of Mindanao’s supply is currently sourced from coal-fired plants and the rest from renewable energy, mainly from the Agus and Pulangi hydropower complexes.

In 2015, the breakdown was 49% hydro, 14% coal, 31% oil-based, and 6% geothermal. By 2017, it has tilted to 49% coal, 29% hydro, 18% oil-based, 3% geothermal, and 1% biomass.

Output from the two hydro facilities, already on the decline due to the age of the facilities, has further been affected by the prevailing dry spell.

The Lanao del Sur Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) conducted a special council meeting on Tuesday to discuss the effects of El Niño, including the situation in Lake Lanao that powers the Agus plant.

Pili Papandayan of the Provincial Environmental and Natural Resources Office said during the meeting that Lake Lanao is now below critical level.

As of Tuesday, Lake Lanao’s elevation was at 698.45 meters above sea level (masl), lower than the 699.15 masl minimum operating level, based on the National Power Corp.’s monitoring.

The PDRRMC is set to meet again on April 4 for the comprehensive plan to address the El Niño impact.

Mr. Montenegro noted that the effect on power supply depends on the contracted supply of the power distributors.

He said those that are heavily contracted with the hydroelectric plants with “no financial flexibility to contract non-hydro sources in the interim will likely be affected.”

“It can be said therefore that the effect of El Niño, if ever, to certain electric cooperatives in Mindanao could happen on a case to case basis,” he added.

Nonetheless, MinDA continues to push for more renewable energy sources to at least have a 50-50 balanced mix with fossil fuel.

“Go renewable,” Mr. Montenegro said at the recent Water, Energy and Power Summit in Zamboanga City.

He said Mindanao’s long-term energy plan remains geared towards a secure, optimal, and sustainable system.

He said there are currently 234 renewable energy projects, mostly hydro, that are pending with the various permitting agencies.

Rehabilitation plans for the Agus and Pulangi plants also remain pending.