Disaster-proofing the Philippine grid for long-term resilience
Published on August 14, 2018 12:00 AM
By the time Typhoon Yolanda made its deadly pass over Leyte in 2013, infrastructure in the province were rendered useless. Halfway through 2017, calamity struck the province once more in the form of a 6.3-magnitude earthquake that shook areas such as Ormoc, damaging transmission facilities.
In April 2017, a transmission tower fell in Alabang after a fire broke out of an informal settler community living beneath the structure.
Disasters affecting the integrity of the country’s transmission grid happen in different instances. But grid operator NGCP approaches the issue from the point of making the system resilient from calamities, both man-made and natural.
“With NGCP’s comprehensive disaster preparedness, response, and business continuity program, damage brought by natural and man-made disasters to transmission lines and facilities are swiftly and efficiently addressed, to ensure the quick continuation of activities disrupted by the loss of power,” said NGCP.
“Our goal is to mitigate the impact of power interruptions, enabling Filipinos to conduct activities smoothly and boost industries’ productivity,” the company added.
Since taking charge of the transmission grid’s operations in 2009, the company has implemented modern systems to make the network in sync with new technologies. It also brought in upgrades on equipment and on the skills development of its personnel.
With at least 20 typhoons pummeling different provinces of the country, NGCP invested in alert systems to enable its staff to monitor the track of weather disturbances.
The company formed its Overall Command Center (OCMC), the hub where all its regional offices and districts send real-time information on the condition of its equipment and facilities in times of disasters.
“The OCMC is equipped with a Storm Tracking Alert and Relay System, the PAGASA system, the Japan Meteorological Agency System, and the Typhoon Warning System. It helps us to actively track the movement of typhoons outside and within the Philippine area of responsibility and alert our offices to prepare for them,” NGCP noted.
The company also conducted a comprehensive review of its facilities to assess whether these can endure typhoons, earthquakes, and other calamities. Beyond constructing flood walls in its offices, the grid operator is looking into introducing resilient tower designs that could weather strong typhoons.
Powering our people
Alongside technology upgrades, NGCP also improved the skills of its employees by providing training opportunities. For instance, its quick response teams are regularly trained to improve their capacity as first-responders.
“Our quick response teams undergo regular training to improve their efficiency in the field should the next disaster strike. We provide them with advanced training in rescuing, the latest best practices in power restoration repairs, and overall, how they can help mitigate the effects of a disaster,” said NGCP.
“When the situation calls for it, we tap the services of experts who work on highly-specialized equipment such as transformers, gas insulated switchgear, high-voltage direct current, and other transmission facilities that need immediate attention,” NGCP added.
Plans in place for the best defense
The best way to minimize damage is to plan ahead, particularly on how to respond to every potential crisis situation.
With this in mind, the company drew up its Integrated Disaster Action Plan (IDAP), an end-to-end emergency and rehabilitation process for its facilities. Its IDAP enabled NGCP to develop business continuity plans to address all types of possible disasters and how to quickly recover from them.
Designed to facilitate the grid operator’s response to any widespread grid disturbance, the IDAP covers the deployment of supplies and personnel in disaster-stricken areas and disaster-preparedness activities for communities.
In 2016, Bicol and Quezon’s transmission lines sustained heavy damage. With the IDAP in place, NGCP personnel moved almost 600 linemen, engineers, technical, and non-technical staff across the country to work on restoring the system.
“In the aftermath of the typhoon, to expedite the restoration of power transmission services, our team of responders installed an Emergency Restoration Structure, a special structure used to bypass damaged transmission lines and structures to bring back power to affected areas,” NGCP shared.
In terms of protecting its transmission facilities, NGCP created a risk assessment group to identify the level of risk for every power equipment or transmission line, and line them up for upgrades or replacement.
“We evaluate the designs of existing transmission facilities and implement measures to strengthen them, so they can withstand the adverse effects of disasters and climate change.
Depending on our observations, if necessary, we relocate existing transmission facilities that are vulnerable to damages,” noted NGCP.
Swift response in the aftermath of disasters
NGCP’s swift action proves crucial especially in affected areas that are densely populated, as illustrated after the tower in Alabang toppled over due to a fire caused by informal settlers on April 19, 2017.
“After the tower 34 of the Biñan-Muntinlupa 230 kilovolt (kV) transmission line fell, NGCP’s IDAP enabled the immediate mobilization of personnel to fast-track the repair of the damaged tower and minimize risks on both vehicle and human traffic in the area,” the grid operator noted.
These restoration groups extensively work day and night in order to ensure the proper rehabilitation of affected areas. “Our linemen, engineers, and support groups remain vigilant at all times and are ready to respond during catastrophes, working until power transmission services are restored to their normal operations,” NGCP added.
Disasters are inevitable, but in the same way that being prepared is the country’s best form of protection against severe impacts, NGCP relies on the daily measures that need to be implemented to keep the grid in top condition.
“Disaster-preparedness is crucial for us to be able to carry out our responsibility of transmitting power safely, reliably, and securely,” the company said.
“Disasters will always pose challenges, but as long as we have the right plans and resources in place, we can reduce the impacts of power interruptions caused by calamities and contribute to the country’s continued progress,” NGCP said.
NGCP is a Filipino-led, privately owned company in charge of operating, maintaining, and developing the country’s power grid, led by majority shareholders Henry Sy, Jr. and Robert Coyiuto, Jr.###