Ilonggos in uproar over new 13-hour brownout

June 14, 2020

IN a seemingly unending spate of prolonged and more frequent power outages in Iloilo under the watch of MORE Power, another 13-hour brownout tormented consumers yesterday with the maintenance works at the La Paz substation, affecting one-third of the city and causing an uproar among Ilonggos.

La Paz substation mainly caters to the transport and port hub of Iloilo and is one of the major anchors for commercial activities in the city. Hence, power interruptions not only cause inconvenience but also result in serious economic losses.

“This 13-hour brownout plunged one-third of Iloilo into darkness once more,” Engr. Aldren Deleste, Operations Manager for Planning of Panay Electric Company (PECO) said, referencing also the power outages that had recurrently pummeled the city even in the midst of the double whammy of scorching summer months and the coronavirus pandemic through the months of March to May. “Worse, these chronic power outages remained unabated even at the start of rainy season this June, a way for MORE to cement the stature of Iloilo City as “the brownout capital of the Philippines.”

Deleste also debunked MORE’s claim that the maintenance of the La Paz substation was due to its alleged “overloaded” condition, saying that when PECO was managing the power distribution facility in Iloilo, La Paz sub-station was actually “underloaded.

Citing a report by the third party technical audit undertaken by Singaporean firm WSP Consultancy Pte. Ltd., PECO conveyed that full-scale maintenance work was carried out in the La Paz substation in 2018; and that particular facility was rated “underloaded” during the audit process.

As affirmed in the 2018 audit report, “out of the 50-megawatt capacity of La Paz substation, under PECO’s watch, it was only loaded with 33MW which was technically 66% only of the full capacity,” which clearly negates the claim of MORE that the facility is overloaded and that should also debunk the basis of the maintenance work it is pursuing.

“It seems MORE is trying to exaggerate the amount of maintenance work that they need to do to make it appear that PECO was negligent even if this is untrue and even if it means suffering for the Iloilo people because of the long and more frequent brownouts,” Deleste said.

For well-experienced power distribution firms, they have an extensive knowledge and it becomes an inherent and technically acceptable practice in the industry to undertake “comprehensive maintenance every 5 to 10 years based on proper daily monitoring and monthly predictive maintenance (PM), or what is known as condition-based maintenance.

Deleste adds: The fact that MORE needs to do comprehensive maintenance means they have not been monitoring it and doing proper PMs. It also shows that MORE does not seem to know or understand the equipment, and that circles back to technical incompetence which in turn causes inconvenience to the people of Iloilo and putting unwarranted blame on PECO.”

For the La Paz substation, in particular, the third party audit firm noted that “the capacity of generation seems adequate to cater to peak load demand of PECO distribution network. The peak load observed in 2017 was at 110 MVA (mega-volt ampere), which is within permissible limits of generation capacity.”

WSP Consultancy has deep and extensive multi-disciplinary expertise in energy infrastructure globally -- spanning planning, designing, building and operating a power plant; as well as in the automation, technical processes and ensuring reliability across the supply chain that include transmission and distribution of electricity to consumers.

As could be culled from the all-inclusive outcome of that technical audit, PECO noted that under its watch, “comprehensive maintenance was done at the La Paz substation in 2018 without any major outage,” contrary to the prolonged brownouts distressing Iloilo consumers in line with the maintenance activities being undertaken by MORE.

Deleste explained that comprehensive maintenance entailed that “transformer was actually opened and bolts and nuts were tightened,’ and yet it was able to manage a shorter maintenance downtime and service interruptions of just eight hours, way shorter than the harrowing 13-hour brownouts being caused by MORE.

“Oil of the power transformer was filterred and parallel works were also done outside,” PECO said, emphasizing that “at the extent of this maintenance, the scheduled repair works only resulted in a scheduled outage of 8 hours.”

"By contrast, the maintenance work that will be done by MORE is not as comprehensive as the one done by PECO but surprisingly required longer hours.”