LONG-TERM SOLUTION: Cebu-Negros-Panay Phase 3 completion seen to solve Panay ‘power crisis’

Photo Courtesy of Offshore Energy

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

Just around eight months after a 3-day blackout, Panay Island was once again struck by a massive and prolonged power outage. What could be the practical remedy for this recurring issue?

A power plant operator and a local chief executive believe that the most practical way to address the “power crisis” in Panay Island is through the completion of stage 3 of the Cebu-Negros-Panay (CNP) transmission line project.

Phase 3 of the CNP backbone project is among the five-point directives to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. stated that the most effective approach to resolving the recurring power outages in Western Visayas aligns with the May 2023 directives issued by the Department of Energy (DOE) to the NGCP. This directive was issued following a 3-day-long power blackout that struck Panay in May of the previous year.

“Ang tanan nga nagakatabo nga power interruptions mabalik sa lima ka direktiba nga ginhatag sang DOE,” said Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. in a press conference.

Defensor explained that, according to NGCP, the power trip in Panay Energy Development Corporation (PEDC) Unit 1 could have been rationalized by reducing the load on the grid during incidents of voltage fluctuations and temporary stoppages.

“Gin eksplekar sa atun sang NGCP nga kung may mag trip gani kag temporarily may stoppage ang isa ka planta […] pwede mo ma rationalize ang demand. Buhinan mo danay ang demand sa grid para nga magbalanse ka,” he said.

However, the rationalization of power demand was not immediately implemented due to the inadequate reserve power generated in Panay. In simpler terms, the region lacks a sufficient backup power supply to compensate for voltage losses during temporary stoppages or power trips.

One of the most feasible solutions, according to NGCP as relayed by the governor, is the completion of phase 3 of the CNP backbone project, linking Negros and Cebu through a submarine cable.

Since the completion of phase 3 of the CNP backbone project is scheduled for March next year, Panay Island currently cannot receive an external power supply.

CNP phase 3 involves the construction of 230 kV transmission line facilities from the Barotac Viejo Substation in Iloilo province to the Cebu Substation.

It is designed to accommodate the transmission of excess power equivalent to the output of two 400-MW plants from Panay and Negros to Cebu.

Albin Kintanar, vice president for operations of PCPC, said that a backup transmission line or a loop for the Panay grid could have prevented the three-day blackout.

He said that the limited power transfer capacity from Negros to Panay constrained by transmission line capacity was a contributing factor to the delay in the restoration of some power plants.

“When we talk about the robustness of the trip, limited sa 180 yung power transfer from Negros to Panay. We are constrained by the capacity of the transfer in the transmission line,” he told Daily Guardian.

Kintanar claimed the outage on Tuesday could have been resolved in two hours with sufficient transfer capacity.

“Maybe even shorter kasi kung medyo sufficient yung transfer capacity isiswitch on lang ng NGCP yung supply papunta sa mga distribution utilities,” he said.

One of the DOE directives noted that the NGCP has to be transparent to stakeholders, local government units, distribution utilities, power generators, DOE, and the Energy Regulatory Commission should be updated on the status of the Visayas grid.

NGCP is also urged to synchronize the protection relay of the distribution, generation, and transmission to protect the system.

Moreover, the NGCP has to fast-track the filing and approval of pending Ancillary Services Procurement Agreements that support the transmission of power from generators to consumers and always watch out for the entry of variables and other sources of energy into the grid so it will not be overwhelmed and stressed.

The power blackout in Panay entered its fourth day today, but there is no exact date and time yet for the full restoration of power.