Power: Don’t make haste slowly

editorial dec 18 border

WE KNOW GOV EDGAR CHATTO  as generally “Mr. Cool” -so when he blows his top, there is a mighty reason.

Twenty four hours earlier, Chatto was lulled into a sense of joyful complacency  by the sweet -talking (honey-dripping from their lips) of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines  (NGCP)  executives who promised  that there would be no more power outages. Only for Bohol to be hit again by an approximately 9 hour blackout, yesterday.  Raises one’s hackles, really.

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Two weeks earlier, the national media logged a Bohol blackout that lasted almost a day (21 hours) that infuriated business and consumers.

This is no longer funny. We are more than three years removed from the 7.2 earthquake that resulted in a month’s Dark Ages almost reaching the Christmas holidays .  And here we are, still in purgatory after the hell that was 2013.

No longer funny because “power is key to almost all economic activities”. Resorts, hotels and restaurants which cater to our No 1 Tourist Industry cannot forever spend for expensive generator power and explain the inconvenience to guests. A tourist paradise without power? Let’s call it the Garden of Eden, then?

Same with other semi industrial firms. The irate consumers stormed out of their hot homes and descend like locusts on the local air conditioned malls -only to be met by long lines at the restaurants and cinemas. Ouch, again.

Likewise, aside from that seemingly fruitless P600-M PLDT  investment in fiber optics two years ago,  today, they are still addressing technical kinks to arrest our deteriorating internet connection. Add the untenable power situation here  and the dream of the “Emerging BPO center” will remain emerging- forever.

What’s the power situation? And let’s not call a spade a diamond.

The peak load (without the Panglao airport and the ancillary businesses),  requirement for Bohol is 70M. Present capacity of power? The Leyte interconnection has 85MW, the city diesel plant is 11 MW and the hydroelectric plants are 7 MW. Total  of 104MW supply. So supply exceeds demand, we are safe? Wrong.

Capacity and actual delivery to the end-users are two different animals, pardon the metaphor. The NGCP sweet talkers say after they fine-tune the new Ormoc Maasin 138 KV Line 2, all will be fine and dandy in Bohol. Wanna bet?

Sorry. Twice beaten, thrice shy, we are. Stop talking and deliver.please.

We are not convinced about the logic of the Cebu-Bohol connection (again, like Leyte?), either. First it is going to take a long 6 years (operational by 2022). How will it be linked (underwater cable again ?) or wait (again?) for the Cebu-Bohol bridge to come to fruition, when?

Infrastructure in cable connections from afar are “sunk costs” and are likely inserted in the final cost of power to end users in order to recoup investment and hurdle NEDA returns on investment or present value norms.  Logic tells us- the farther the source of power to the end users, the greater the danger of inefficiency looms.

And Cebu province, The Freeman  reported in late 2014- with its incredible rise in real estate, BPO, hotels , resorts and businesses, will face a looming power crisis  in the next few years. 

Many of us do not know that as of 2015, the chief of the Electricity Management Division of the DOE in Cebu  Saul Gonzales disclosed that Cebu with a system load of 768MW and gross reserve of 169MW — and thus Cebu consumes what it produces. 

Much many more people do not know, that Cebu also buys  274MW from Leyte and then exports 169MW to Negros Island. What  would be the composite cost of that  interconnected Cebu power to Boholano consumers?

In the Central Visayas, Bohol appears to be the only province without an organic province -based  power source of consequence (19MW from diesel and hydo only). Because both Leyte and Negros have geothermals  (Valencia) and Cebu has coal powered plants, among others.

So having been punished for three years by the dangers of a long distance source of power from Leyte, why do we  now have to interconnect to Cebu which also takes 6 years to fix?

How many more years of summits and “pieces of advice” from experts do we need to swallow in order  to embrace the fact that the only viable long-term solution is to build a province-based power plant of at least 100 MW.

Let’s cut the “analysis paralysis” and just give the go signal to one who can install the power plant in our province, at an acceptable per kilowatt hour cost and most of all, is environmentally friendly. Give the qualified applicant  a cap of 24 months to install. 

Let us stop this juvenile justification that “anyhow, we can export excess power capacity to others”.  Note that most nearby provinces have their own endemic power supply sources- so why will they import? An “imported” power supply is like buying from a trader with his (profit margins) when you can produce the item on one’s own. 

Isn’t it the very reason we need to have our own power source after the woes and even the cost of “importing” from Leyte? How can we sell a patently failed experiment from our own experience to others?

Honestly, it’s time to roll our sleeves and halt the BS around (we are as peeved as the governor because they shut power on weekends when we are busiest preparing this Sunday issue) .

 Do one meeting, set out for bidding, award and JUST DO IT.

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com

 



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