By Myrna M. Velasco
The Department of Energy (DOE) is undertaking a performance audit and assessment of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative Inc. (ZAMCELCO) by the end of this month, with the agency noting that while supply is not the main problem, there are technical facets of power network operations that have been triggering the 1-3 hours of brownout duration in the area.
“So far, there are brownouts, so we intend to conduct performance audit and assessment towards the end of the month in order to determine and have in-depth evaluation of its (ZAMCELCO’s) operations and facilities,” noted Mario Marasigan, director of the DOE’s Electric Power Industry Management Bureau.
The energy official explained that there’s “technical aspect” that have been hobbling seamless electricity distribution in the Zamboanga peninsula – and that shall be the main target of the DOE audit.
“Apparently, supply is not an issue even with the unsettled payments with Alsons,” Marasigan stressed, referring to the P500 million arrears that the Alcantara-owned Western Mindanao Power Corporation (WMPC) has been demanding from the joint venture of Crown Investments Holdings Inc. and Desco Inc., the new owner of the Zamboanga power utility.
Marasigan emphasized though that the WMPC plant is needed by ZAMCELCO for one critical purpose – for its need of ancillary services for frequency regulation or that plant that it can call on immediately for dispatch when there is frequency excursion in the system that could then cause damage and compromise the reliability of operations of power facilities.
WMPC’s power plant provides the necessary ancillary for voltage and frequency regulation – no need for megawatts but MVAR (megavolt amps reactive)or what is known as “reactive power” in the industry so reliability of electricity system operations can be sustained.
Marasigan added that for such particular use of the WMPC plant in the network of ZAMCELCO, it is crucial that the parties could agree on near-term settlement, so the brownouts in the area would eventually be eased. But he said Crown Investments and Desco have been contesting the billings.
Absent that move, the DOE official indicated that the option is for the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to approve the ASPA (ancillary services procurement agreement) of NGCP (National Grid Corporation of the Philippines) and WMPC which will serve the entire Zamboanga peninsula.
Marasigan stressed, “We have informed and requested the ERC to act immediately, which we believe will be done very soon.”
DOE Assistant Secretary Redentor Delola further noted that “with the location of Zamboanga which is at the farthest end of the peninsula and the radial configuration of the line, power quality suffers when no local generation is available.”