‘IT’S NOW OR NEVER’: Rotating blackout looms if NGCP fails to complete key Iloilo facility

MORE Power President and Chief Executive Officer Roel Z. Castro gives updates on the firm’s 5-year modernization plan at the Iloilo City Council Tuesday.

By Francis Allan Angelo

Iloilo City’s sole power distributor asked for the intervention of Iloilo City officials in ensuring that the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) provides sufficient capacity by completing the approved uprating of the latter’s Iloilo City Substation.

MORE Power President and CEO Mr. Roel Castro pushed this cause before the Iloilo City Council in a meeting following the blackout incident on January 2, 2024.

The substation is located in the area of Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC) in Lapaz district.

GBPC’s subsidiary, Panay Energy Development Corp., operates three coal-fired power plants which are critical to the grid.

According to Castro, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has already ordered the reclassification of the substation as transmission assets two years ago.

Based on NGCP’s Transmission Development Program (TDP), the 3x100MVA new Iloilo Substation was supposed to be finished in December 2023.

But the project, which will require a 450-day construction period, is still incomplete.

A major factor for the delay cited by MORE Power is the absence of a firm commercial agreement between NGCP and GBPC for the reclassified assets located in Lapaz.

Castro noted that with Iloilo City being an investment hub in Region 6 and with a load demand growth of 4%, the existing NGCP facility may not be capable anymore by early 2025.

“If NGCP does not immediately start the uprating of their Iloilo 3x100MVA Substation by 2025, the total loading of the 100MVA transformer of NGCP in Sta Barbara will be beyond the NGCP’s System Integrity Protection Scheme (SIPS) limit. As a result, MORE Power and ILECO 1 Pavia and Iloilo Provincial Capitol will be interrupted,” he added.

Castro said the potential shortfall in NGCP’s substation capacity by 2025 poses a severe risk of supply curtailments and load shedding, leading to economic repercussions for Iloilo City and surrounding areas.

“However, if the NGCP’s 3x100MVA Iloilo Substation is implemented and given that the Cebu, Negros, and Panay backbone transmission project will be completed, the power supply will not be a problem in the years to come,” he added.

Castro also said that he had already written ERC Chairperson Hon. Monalisa Dimalanta urging the commission’s intervention, citing the importance of the matter.

He also revealed this concern to lawmakers during last week’s hearings on the Panay and Guimaras island power blackout incidents.

NGCP executives committed during the congressional hearings that they would finish the project by the end of December 2024.