Vis-Min grid interconnection feasibility study gets ERC nod

by Lenie Lectura – February 15, 2016

from Business Mirror

THE Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has approved the conduct of a feasibility study on the proposed Visayas-Mindanao interconnection project of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

“We provisionally approved the application for the feasibility study to be conducted to interconnect the Visayas and Mindanao grids,” ERC Commissioner Jose Vicente Salazar said in a media briefing.

With the approval, the NGCP can immediately commence the conduct of the study for the Visayas-Mindanao Western Route (Cebu-Negros-Zamboanga del Norte) Interconnection Project Phase 1.

The interconnection of the Visayas and Mindanao grids was first conceptualized in 1984, through the study of Japan International Cooperation Agency.

In 1996 the National Power Corp. initiated the implementation of the connection project. Norconsult International AS of Norway was tapped to complete the feasibility study. The government, however, deferred the implementation of the interconnection project.

In 2004 National Transmission Corp. and the Department of Energy (DOE) revised the proposed interconnection project, but the government still did not carry out the project. Then in 2011 the DOE directed the NGCP to review previous studies. The NGCP engaged the services of China Electric Power Research Institute to conduct a study.

In the study, the proposed Visayas-Mindanao interconnection route from Leyte to Surigao would encounter several significant environmental risks and perils. It was found out that there were seismic hazards in the Surigao Strait, which may limit the possible viability of the callable routes.

Thus, the NGCP deemed it essential to consider an alternate route by exploring the western route for the connection of the Visayas and Mindanao grids.

In its 10-page application, the grid operator stressed the urgency for the Visayas and Mindanao grids to be interconnected because, for one, this would “open more investment opportunities in Mindanao, both in terms of additional power generation and industrial loads.”

NGCP said a 2,400 megawatt (MW) of additional capacity is expected to be injected in the Mindanao grid from FDC power plant (405 MW by 2016); GN Power Coal (450 MW by 2017, 150 MW by 2018); Therma South Coal (300 MW by 2015, 150 MW by 2017, 150 MW by 2018); SMC Davao Coal (150 MW by 2015, 150 MW by 2016, 150 MW by 2017, 150 MW by 2018).

“With an unexpected substantial capacity in the Mindanao grid due to the upcoming power plants and the possible deficiency in the Visayas grid, power sharing of reserves must be immediately effected between them,” the NGCP said.

These exchanges, the NGCP added, can only be realized through the implementation of the Visayas-Mindanao interconnection project. “Thus, an initial step, and similar to other significant projects in the power industry, the NGCP must be initially conduct a feasibility study to determine the best and safest route for the cables and landings of the interconnection,” the grid operator added.