By LIGALIG MIKE ORTEGA and VEN C. ARIGO
Fearing that Bohol’s three-week experience of agony in 2013 might recur following the 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Leyte that injured power plants, Boholanos could now heave a sigh of relief after power again flowed back to homes, first in the capital city of Tagbilaran, then in nearby towns, shortly before Sunday midnight.
In an 11:30 p.m. Facebook post yesterday, Bohol Light Company, through its spokesperson May Hope “Dice” Arcenal, announced that all the power line “feeders” of BLCI (Bohol Light Company, Inc.) have been energized, in a news that brought unspeakable comfort to those who have been tortured by the uncertainty of darkness following the 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck Leyte and brought down geothermal power plants, which supply power to the province of Bohol.
Thursday’s powerful earthquake triggered auto shutdown of the four geothermal power plants in Leyte, causing a Bohol-wide blackout.
At least 47 towns, including the capital city of Tagbilaran, plunged into darkness three minutes after the 4:03 pm tremor, which also brought back terrors of memories of the 7.2-magnitude earthquake that walloped Bohol in 2013.
As soon as news of geothermal power plants being paralyzed by the Leyte earthquake reached the Boholano people via social media sites, worries and panic gripped the public, fearing that the three-week darkness in 2013, which was brought about by the supertyphoon Yolanda, might interrupt their lives again nearly four years later.
Provincial officials led by Gov. Edgar M. Chatto, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) executives, and the Department of Energy (DOE) through Sec. Alfonso Cusi, immediately scrambled to find solutions to the looming agony in Bohol.
Early reports and NGCP advisories had indicated that Bohol would brace for a prolonged period of total blackout due to the uncertainty of information as to the extent of damage in the geothermal power plants.
But NGCP’s advisory, posted at 11 pm yesterday, had brought hopes to brownout-traumatized Boholanos.
“As of 11PM (JULY 8, 2017), Bohol Electric Cooperative (BOHECO I) serving the areas of Panglao, Loay, Maribojoc, and Tubigon are currently receiving supply generated by the Janopol Hydroelectric Power Plant and Sevilla Mini Hydro,” the NGCP said.
“As earlier reported, the franchise area of Bohol Light Company, Inc. (BLCI), including Tagbilaran City, are receiving supply generated by Bohol Diesel Power Plant,” it added.
Earlier, at 3 pm yesterday, NGCP noted that the “Panay Energy Development Corporation (PEDC) and Palm Concepcion Power Corporation (PCPC) are online and have been synchronized to the grid, augmenting power transmission services in the Panay area.”
According to the grid company, the outage of power plants in Leyte may still cause customers in Cebu, Negros, and Panay (including Bohol) to experience occasional power interruptions. Power generation from solar plants in the region may be able to produce sufficient supply during the daytime.
At 6 AM yesterday, NGCP said it was creating a bypass line to connect the Tabango Substation to Ormoc Substation.
As of 2 AM yesterday, NGCP disclosed that the corporation’s Ormoc-Tongonan 138kV Line, which was found leaning after the earthquake which occurred at 4:03PM on July 6, has been reinforced and is ready to be energized as soon as supply from the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) becomes available.
“Once the line is energized, power will be restored in Ormoc, Leyte,” it said.
EDC owns and manages the four gigantic geothermal power plants in Leyte, considered to be “the world’s largest geothermal power plant under one roof,” and the facility produces more than 1,160 MW, powering more than 10 million homes in the Visayas regions.
On Friday evening, it became clear that the power lines of NGCP did not suffer significant damage like it did in 2013 when typhoon Yolanda struck Leyte and Samar provinces.
However, the major concern was now focused on the state of the quake-hit geothermal power plants.
In a press statement released by EDC on Friday, the company brought a discomforting news.
“At the time of the quake, our plants were providing ~460 MW of power to the grid. For now, all of the plants are shut down and we are evaluating the damage. We will have a more detailed assessment as more information becomes available,” EDC said.
Yesterday, at 10 AM, EDC issued another updated press statement and it disclosed that “all of EDC’s Leyte power plants are still shut down while assessment of the full extent of damage is ongoing.”
A more detailed portrait of damage is revealed by the EDC in the following technical assessment:
“Based on the ongoing assessment, we can provide the following updates and estimates: The Tongonan Geothermal Power Plant Unit 1 may not be operational for some time due to cooling tower damage. Unit 2 (35MW) may be operational in the next 7 to 10 days as tests on the unit and the main transformer as well as cooling tower repair needs to be performed.
“Our Upper Mahiao plant is also expected to return to operation in 5 to 7 days bringing 132MW back to the grid.
“For the Malitbog power plant, Units 1 and 2 are estimated to return to service within the next 7 to 10 days bringing about 150MW of power back online.Unit 3 however will remain on shutdown due to damage sustained by the cooling tower.
“Access to our Mahanagdong plant remains difficult and we have not yet been able to assess the extent of damage. We are still working to clear landslide debris.
“Barring any unforeseen issues, EDC could have about 317 MW of power restored to Leyte within the next 10 days.
“Meanwhile, repair of the marshalling station has commenced and we expect it to be operational in 3 to 5 days. Aside from transmitting power from our plants, these repairs will also allow the connection of the station to the 230 kV line to Luzon.”
According to Betty Martinez, NGCP communications officer for Central Visayas, the power outlook on Bohol may not stabilize as long as EDC’s power plants are undergoing repair and restoration.
Martinez said NGCP’s “bypass method,” however, would ease the power needs of Bohol.
“NGCP is presently creating a bypass line to connect the Tabango Substation to Ormoc Substation. Once the connection is established, power from Cebu will be able to flow to Ormoc substation, and power will be restored in Bohol, Leyte, Southern Leyte, Biliran, and Samar,” NGCP said in its advisory.
“The connection of the two substations will be completed within 2-3 days,” NGCP said.
BULLISH ON CREATING AN INDEPENDENT POWER SOURCE
Bohol is truly serious in its ambitious energy development program that the bidding-procurement of the island-based large-scale power generation plant is to be done this year, according to the industry keyplayers.
The construction of the big-capacity facilities right in Bohol for reliable and sustainable long-term supply of electricity in the province is pursued only in this administration of Gov. Edgar Chatto.
This explains why the governor created the Bohol Energy Development Advisory Group (BDAG), which is now finalizing an agreement crucial and leading to the concrete achievement of the aggressive agenda.
Engr. Algerico Siga of the Bohol Electric Cooperative I (BOHECO I) yesterday said they are bullish that the bidding and procurement process of the project is done this year.
There is no problem with the investors because they are many and so interested, said Siga, who sits in the BEDAG Technical Working Group.
Bohol’s three power distribution utilities (DUs) are now to “agree to go as one” for an aggregate power supply purchase deal that does entice the power developers to build facilities in Bohol.
The DUs are the BOHECO I and II and Bohol Light Company, Inc. (BLCUI).
As “One Bohol Power,” the three will negotiate as one to procure power in bulk and competitive or cheaper price.
Siga said they are now finalizing the memorandum of agreement (MOA) “as one” involving the Boheco I under Gen. Man. Dino Nicolas Roxas; Boheco II, Gen. Man. Eugene Tan; and BLCI Gen Man. Eulogio Signe.
Within this month, the BLCI will meet on some remaining terms and issues that need to be “ironed out.”
The local industry keyplayers are foreseeing the bid invitation to be published in August so that the open bidding can follow.
Siga said once the bidding and procurement process for the aggregate power supply purchase is done, the winning power supplier or consortium of suppliers is expected to start constructing the power generation plant in 2018 or 2019.
The separate existing contracts of the BOHECOs and BLCI with their respective suppliers will expire in 2023.
Even if the province already has a long-term energy development masterplan, no big-time power developer is investing immediately, industry sources asserted.
This is for obvious reason that the supply contracts of the three DUs with their respective existing suppliers have still years before expiration.
Any huge power plant built now has, therefore, no buyer of the electricity it generates.
By 2023, the construction of the large-scale power plant will be already completed for operation and supply, under a new aggregate supply contract, to all the three Bohol distribution utilities in 2024, Siga said.
He said also by that time, Bohol’s peak load demand will reach 115 megawatts as against the current requirement of 78 megawatts only.
On the other hand, the Cebu-Bohol power interconnection is targeted for completion in 2020, but the governor has strongly lobbied for an earlier time in 2019.
The investors of the Bohol island-based power facilities are likewise anticipating this development.
This is because the electricity they produce in excess of the supply to the three DUs—or in excess of the Bohol demand—will be transmitted through the interconnection for sale outside.
CHATTO MOVES FOR IMMEDIATE POWER
As soon as the power blackout hit Bohol island resulting from earthquake-damaged Leyte power source facilities late Thursday afternoon, Chatto “burned lines” from Canada to address the emergency concern back home.
The governor directed Acting Provincial Administrator John Mitchel Boiser to convene the BEDAG Friday morning and work on options that could immediately provide emergency electricity to Tagbilaran City and other possible Bohol areas.
One of the options was to ask the owning company of the Bohol Diesel Power Plant (BDPP) in Dampas in the city to supply emergency power, subject to the approval of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), while the Leyte restoration works would yet take long.
Another alternative is to bring to Bohol a stand-by power barge in Mactan that could generate only 20 megawatts or the 32-megawatt power barge in Davao.
On Chatto’s instruction, Provincial Administrator Alfonso “Ae” Damalerio II called his younger brother, Board Member Abeleon Damalerio, to cause a Sangguniang Panlalawigan resolution authorizing Vice Gov. Dionisio Balite, who was the acting governor, to represent the province to necessary agreements.
The provincial board also asked the ERC to expedite action on the request of Bohol.
During the BEDAG meeting, Damalerio (Alfonso) also called City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II and Vice Mayor Jose Antonio Veloso, who is the Sangguniang Panlungsod presiding officer, to pass similar resolutions.
Damalerio has not yet reassumed as provincial administrator, but he attended the BEDAG meeting as a “private sector volunteer” in the wake of the energy crisis.
While in Canada, Chatto also constantly contacted Department of Energy (DOE) Sec. Alfonso Cusi and the ERC until the governor got the assurance of “go signal” to use of the Dampas power plant starting Friday night—and of the assignment of power barge to Bohol.
The governor finally coordinated with the energy secretary, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Salem Quiwag and Cortes Mayor Iven Lim for the use of the Abatan river barge mooring facility of the Napocor.
The power barge is necessary to restore power in Bohol while the Leyte power system, which interconnection is presently the main source of power here, is yet to be fully rehabilitated.
Further on the governor’s instruction, Damalerio contacted the general manager of Salcon, which is a part-owner of the Dampas power plant.
Damalerio likewise asked Alturas’ owner Marlito Uy, who happened to be in Manila, to help ask Salcon President Dennis Villareal so that the BDPP could be used soonest possible. Uy and Villareal are friends.
Early Friday evening, Villareal called Damalerio to check if the Dampas power plant already supplied power to the city.