The Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) said their recent agreement with the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) to act as system operator of the Palawan grid will address the power reliability issue in the province and help upgrade transmission lines.
Board chair Jeffrey Tan-Endriga stated on Monday that TransCo’s intervention was the outcome of a study completed and designs suggested following a meeting with PALECO and several government agencies in response to the threat of a government takeover.
The signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) was originally scheduled for 2020 following the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) before the pandemic began. Endriga thought that TransCo’s help was a big step forward and one of the most important projects to fix Palawan’s electricity problems.
“Ngayon, natapos na nila ang pag-aaral na ito at nag-come up sila sa isang design, proposal. That’s why we need to sign the memorandum of agreement para at least maging kontrata o agreement itong gagawin nila at mapapaganda ang ating serbisyo,” Endriga said.
“Ito ay isa sa long-term plan ng ating national government to better connect ‘yong main grid. Dahil ‘yan talaga ang ultimate solution na parati natin sinasabi na ‘yong reliability ng ating power plant, ng ating supply, transmission line will surely benefit ‘yong ating MCO,” he added.
Prof. Rowaldo Del Mundo, the special assistant to the president of TransCo, emphasized that it is complex and difficult to control a small island grid like Palawan that is isolated from the main grid.
He noted that all power plants react even to minor disruptions in PALECO’s power connections. TransCo’s strategic role includes the construction of automated control centers to address this issue.
“In fact, ang plano, hindi lang ang control center na ‘yan na hahawak sa power plant. Ang control center na ating itatayo, hindi lang dito sa Palawan. Meron pa tayong national control center na ilalagay sa Quezon City na kung masira o hindi gumana ang ating control center dito sa Palawan, si TransCo control engineers sa Quezon City, makaka-takeover automatically para mahawakan ang mga planta,” Del Mundo explained.
“Ang MOA, spefically sinasabi niya na si TransCo, from now on will start as system operator of the Palawan grid. So, ‘yong expertise ni TransCo dinadala natin para hawakan ang grid, power plant dahil napaka-unstable. It’s a very difficult task for TransCo kasi sanay kami sa main grid — but kung ‘di tutulong si TransCo, sino?” he added.
The PALECO engineers and the TransCo team also came up with a plan to have three clustered backbone systems for the south, the north, and Puerto Princesa.
This way, if there is a problem, the south, the north, and Puerto Princesa can all work on their own.
TransCo, as a national government corporation under the Department of Energy (DOE), said that its assistance to PALECO is not for profit. It is only permitted to work on the main grid, but according to Del Mundo, it goes to the island grid to help solve problems as part of the government.
Under the terms of the MOU, it will cover the expenses and be repaid by PALECO over a period of 20 to 25 years. This, according to Del Mundo, will prevent member-consumer-owners (MCOs) from suffering price increases.
However, a definitive budget for the expenses required to actualize TransCo’s objectives in Palawan has not yet been negotiated.
“Kung magkaroon man tayo ng additional cost dito ay very slim. Ito naman ay dadaan sa tamang proseso kasi isa-submit din natin sa ERC para sa reading pa upang magkaroon ng public consultation at matanggap ito ng ating consumers,” Endriga said.
TransCo will start to deploy its manpower in Palawan by June and July to start working on the problem. Del Mundo stated that through a phasing procedure, results could be felt within five years.
“Nandiyan pa rin si PALECO as distributor, nandyan pa rin si NAPOCOR as transmission company, nandiyan pa rin ang mga power provider pero si TransCo ang magta-traffic sa kanilang lahat. Iyon ang key na trabaho ng system operator,” he said.
Atty. Jainal Abidin Bahjin, president and chief executive officer of TransCo, expressed hopes that the problem of power reliability will be solved in the coming years.
PALECO’s other plans
Endriga said that based on the study conducted by PALECO and national government agencies, the problems that need to be addressed are power sufficiency and transmission concerns, which will be assisted by TransCo. The study was conducted after the threat of a takeover in 2019.
He mentioned that the “ultimate dream” of PALECO is to interconnect the Palawan grid to the backbone or main grid but admitted that it will take time.
“Kung titingnan sa record, halos sagad na ang supply natin. We really need to conduct CSP (competitive selection process), pero unfortunately, wala pa nabibigay na go signal ang supervising agency – DOE. Transmission ito, pumasok na si TransCo,” Endriga said.
The P40-million Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system is currently in its second phase, which expedites the restoration of power following outages.
Endriga added that PALECO is preparing for the next application of capital expenditure (Capex) with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) after the approved loan in 2018.