Monday, November 25, 2013

Bohol needs base-load power plant

Bohol is beset by a power crisis. The available power supply coming from the Bohol Diesel Power Plant (BDPP) and the mini-hydro power plants of BOHECO 1 is more or less 15-megawatts, given no unit of BDPP suffers from mechanical trouble, while the entire province’s requirement is 55-megawatts. Out of the combined power capacity of 15-megawatts, BOHECO 1 is allocated 5-megawatts; BOHECO 2, 3-megawatts; Tagbilaran City, 5-megawatts; and a spinning reserve of 2-megawatts.

How to divide the very scarce resources is beyond me. While there are some areas with very limited but available power supply at night like portions of Loay, Lila, and Dimiao; other areas are pitch black. I drove Saturday and Sunday nights from Tagbilaran to Lila. I saw sparse electricity lighting portions of the highway. Then on Monday night, we drove from Dimiao to Lila. Electricity lit a stretch of the highway.

This scarcity of power supply is brought about by the devastation unleashed by typhoon Yolanda in neighbouring Leyte. Major power lines were felled by the typhoon including one that carries the bulk of power supply from Leyte to Bohol. With the restoration work still on-going, Boholanos are left with only ingenuity.

Many business owners have invested in generators. This is true not only for the city but for the entire province as well. Without reliable power supply, the business sector suffers the most. Many homeowners have bought generators, as well for the comfort they provide. For the rest of us ordinary mortals, we live each day as best we could. We use gas lamps or lampara at night. Some use candles while others use LPG-operated lamps that remind me of the Petromax lanterns of old.

The day before and after Yolanda struck my power industry colleague Elmer Cruz of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) was regularly sending Power Advisories which were very helpful to me. I also forwarded his Advisories to my contacts both in government and the private sector. In times of crisis, information is vital. Time and again, I have been saying that information is essential during crisis situations. Without information, people get confused, angry, frustrated, and then would start speculating. Speculation is the enemy of information. Communicators are trained to confront the vacuum and disseminate rightful information as fast as any available means could. 

Pronouncements have been made that power supply to Eastern and Central Visayas will be made available before Christmas. We welcome the news as we grope in the dark at night. We trust that our line personnel from all over the Philippines who now converge in Leyte to undertake major restoration works will be able to meet the target set. Having worked with the linemen of NPC, TRANSCO, and NGCP for nineteen years, I have no doubt that the Secretary’s promise will be delivered. These line personnel will move heaven and earth to restore damaged structures to enable substation engineers to re-energize the affected lines.      

Our present situation makes us appreciate the presence of a base-load power plant in Bohol. We need one that can supply us sufficient power in the event we are disconnected from the Visayas Grid, just like after Yolanda. This base-load power plant should have a capacity larger than 55-megawatts. It should factor in the annual growth of the power requirement in the entire Bohol Island. With the hard and painful reality confronting us now, the leadership of Bohol is best encouraged to consider seriously the construction of a base-load plant. A base-load plant runs 24 hours and is connected to the grid. In the event that we are disconnected from the grid, the base-load plant will operate independently to supply Bohol with the needed power requirement.

In the meantime, I urge my fellow Boholanos not to curse the darkness. It is best we accept our present reality, deal with it, and do something positive about it.

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