Daneco’s deteriorated submarine cable lighting Samal Island feared to give up soon

sept 25, 2013

Officials in the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) are expressing fear that the already deteriorated 30-year old submarine cable used to supply power to the entire island from Davao City might give up soon and put the entire island in the dark.

Igacos City Administrator Cleto Gales, in an interview, said that the submarine cable of the Davao del Norte Electric Cooperative (Daneco) is “already on advanced state of deterioration” and its load capacity of 5-megawatts is no longer enough to meet the increasing power requirement of the island of more than 5 megawatts during peak hours at the latest. 

He said that last summer the power load running into the submarine cable breached its load capacity by registering 5.2 megawatts, forcing Daneco to put the entire island on rotational brownout scheme so as not to overstress the submarine cable.

He added that the submarine cable had already gone being cut and spliced in five incidents during its 30-year life including one where it was dragged by a cargo ship.

The cable’s submerged part is one-kilometer stretch connected from substation and distribution lines of Davao Light and Power Corp. in Pampanga area, Davao City.

The latest bogging down of the submarine cable caused by the breakup of one splice was in 2011 where it took two weeks for Daneco to repair and resume energizing the island.

“It is functioning at critical level during peak hours, and with its advanced state of deterioration, we fear that anytime soon, it will give up and put the entire island in the dark,” the city administrator said.

“It will mean economic paralysis of the island. Our economic development is being held hostage by this power inefficiency,” Gales said citing that Samal Island urgently needs a reliable and stable power to meet the increasing investors who have liked to invest in the island but are usually turned off after knowing its power supply situation.

“We are experiencing brownouts now usually for 4 hours, without schedule. There’s power crisis in the island. Our power crisis is three-pronged. It is on top of the Mindanao power crisis, and due to the state of the submarine cable and the intramurals between Daneco-NEA and Daneco-CDA groups,” he said.

He said that the office of Mayor Aniano Antalan has received from various entities several exploratory offers to provide alternative power to the island like a 5-megawatt each for the proposed coal power plant, a solar power requiring a 10-hectare land, and a thermal energy coming from the depths of the sea.

Gales also said that Igacos city government maintains its position of wanting the Davao Light maintain and manage the power supply of the island citing the company’s capacity to bring reliable and stable power.

He said that it turned out that Daneco has been subsidizing Davao Light when it pays at least P1.2 million a month as wheeling fees for the routing of power supply through the latter’s distribution lines to supply the island in near distance from Davao Light’s Pampanga substation.

A memorandum of agreement was forged between Daneco , Davao Light and the city government more than two years ago giving the latter a contractor-like function to distribute and manage power in the island, but it was aborted by the ensuing factional intramurals between Daneco-NEA and Daneco-CDA groups, Gales recalled.

At present, the Daneco-NEA group was chosen as the single entity to manage Daneco following favorable decision of the Court of Appeals last month on legitimacy and CDA registration-related cases filed during their two-year legal and administrative battle.

In separate interview, City Vice Mayor Al David Uy, on the other hand, said: “We cannot expand right now because of lack of power. We should at least have 10 megawatts.”

He said businesses have been hit by rotating brownouts including the high-end beach resorts like the Paradise Island Park and Beach Resort and Blujaz Beach Resort and Waterpark, which he said have been resorting to using their own generators.

“That’s the reason why people keep on asking why the entrance fees of commercial beaches in the island are high,” he said.

Vice Mayor Uy also said that he learned that the high-end Playa Azalea resort subdivision has difficulty of making their buyers finally build their own rest or retirement houses as they often ask “when will the power in the island be sufficient?”

“A high-end house is consuming power equivalent to 20 typical houses. Retirees also need to have continuous power as some of them need life-support facilities that require power,” the vice mayor added.

“One solution is the establishment of a power plant, but this has to pass necessary processes, permits and environmental clearances to protect the island from pollution,” he said.

City Councilor Dan Gervacio said that more power supply more than 5 megawatts is indeed needed for the island to be flocked into by thousands of investors, adding that the Samal Island has still wide spaces and strips of beaches for locators.

He said he received information that Malaysian-owned Ekran Berhad is renewing its interest to reopen and expand its 250-hectare complex of resort, hotel and golf club at Kaputian district.

The complex opened in 1997 but shut down three years later after hit by the Asian economic crisis that started in 2000.

“Ekran Berhad alone needs 5-megawatt power requirement, said Gervacio, an electrical engineer and former member of Daneco board of directors.

Daneco OIC general manager Benedicto Ongking, in separate interview, that Daneco has already plans to augment power supply in the island.

He said that while Daneco limits the running power load of the submarine cable up to 4.6 megawatts only the rotating brownouts can be remedied by a 3-megawatt modular generator, which the “Dept. of Energy through the Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives (Amreco) is currently processing for Daneco to avail as assistance.”

He said that at the latest Daneco’s franchise area which includes the whole of Compostela Valley and parts of Davao del Norte is short of average 30 megawatts due to varying deficits of power supply from Agus and Pulangi hydropower sources, causing Daneco to make rotational brownouts.

Daneco’s franchise area needs a power requirement of 75 megawatts, but power supplier state-run PSALM can only deliver an average of 30 megawatts while Daneco’s ancillary supplier, the Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc. delivers 15 megawatts only.

Ongking said it would only by the first quarter of 2015 that power is projected to stabilized for Daneco with the coming in of new independent power producers such as the incoming Therma South. (Rural Urban News/Cha Monforte)

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