By Rjay Zuriaga Castor
What solutions will Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. propose for the investigation into the recent power outage that affected Panay?
Two things: To get across that “the management of the grid should be perfected immediately” by the NGCP, and highlight the urgency of completing Phase 3 of the Cebu-Negros-Panay (CNP) backbone project and other corollary structures.
“These are the two things we want to pursue immediately,” said Defensor in a media interview on Tuesday.
Defensor is set to be a resource speaker for the committee inquiry of both the Senate and the House of Representatives on the power outage.
The Senate investigation is scheduled to commence today, January 10, while that of the lower house is on January 11.
“Why immediately? Because we are in danger here in Panay and the region of it happening again,” the governor added.
It can be recalled that Panay Island, including Guimaras and Negros, experienced a days-long power blackout amid the summer heat from April 27 to 29 last year.
Just around eight months later, Panay Island was once again affected by the same power outage. Power was fully restored on the island at noon on January 5 after multiple power trippings occurred on January 2 afternoon.
‘WEAK’ PANAY GRID
Since the power outage struck Panay Island in less than a year, Defensor believes that the Panay grid is “weak,’” and a prolonged blackout may likely happen again.
“Why is it likely to happen again? Because the grid is weak. Why is it weak? Because the backbone is not finished. A national grid without a backbone may not be a national grid. A national grid with an unfinished backbone is weak,’ he stressed.
Defensor was referring to the CNP backbone project of the NGCP.
Since phase 3 of the CNP interconnection is yet to be completed in March this year, Defensor stressed that Panay Island currently cannot receive external power supply in cases where a system disturbance hits the grid.
CNP Phase 3 involves the construction of 230 kV transmission line facilities from the Barotac Viejo Substation in Iloilo province to the Cebu Substation.
The backbone project is designed to accommodate the transmission of excess power equivalent to the output of two 400-MW plants from Panay and Negros to Cebu.
“We are in a hurry; we appeal to the whole energy sector that we are in a hurry because we think that the grid is weak and it can happen again in incidents of a power trip. That is the message that we will bring to congress, and we will seek their help in hurrying up,” the governor added.
NGCP Public Relations Department Lead Specialist Reaghan Alcantara has neither denied nor confirmed to the Daily Guardian that the Panay grid is weak but maintained that it “can be stronger.”
‘It was weakened with the absence of the power plants themselves because power comes from them. But definitely, it could still be stronger,’ he said.
He added, ‘What’s very critical here is the grid was weakened with the absence of the power being produced by the power plants because the grid on itself cannot feed on itself; we need power to make us strong.’
Alcantara also emphasized that the completion of the CNP backbone project will strengthen the Panay grid.
“It will be a big boost, a backup to our transmission system,” he stressed.
Defensor further noted that power trips are inevitable but emphasized that “the grid must be strong enough physically to handle the trip.
He also stressed that the management of the NGCP should be good enough to maintain the stability of the grid considering that glitches and malfunctions are inherent in systems
“Trips really happen. Machines really go wrong […] whether it is a sewing machine or a diesel power plant generating electricity. Things can go wrong with it, and they really conk out,” he explained.”
Defensor said the “power crisis” in Panay needs immediate attention and the national government has put pressure on NGCP as the sole system operator of the country’s state-owned power grid.
“That is why we are in a hurry. We want to apply pressure together with the Department of Energy and other regulating agencies, and the congress. We want to apply pressure that this should be fixed immediately because if not, this will repeat,” he said.
He warned that the prolonged neglect of the power crisis could adversely impact the economic development of Iloilo, bringing it to a standstill.
“It will stop our development. If we cannot fix this, we will be stopped dead in our tracks,” he said.