Power system operator National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) will be building a new transmission backbone to carry added power capacity in Mindanao at a cost of P6.86 billion, details of the decision released by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) show.

“A perusal of the evidence presented herein showed that NGCP’s application for the approval of the Mindanao 230 kV (kilovolt) Transmission Backbone Project is in accordance with the provision of Republic Act No. 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001,” the ERC said in its decision, which was docketed in its records on March 29.

The transmission service provider applied for the 230-kV line in April 2015. Its project was submitted for ERC resolution in July 2016 after a series of hearings. The decision was signed by ERC Chairman and Chief Executive Jose Vicente B. Salazar along with the four commissioners.

“The approval of the project will redound to the benefit of its consumers in terms of continuous, reliable and efficient power supply as mandated by Section 2 and Section 9 of the EPIRA,” ERC said in its decision, which was distributed to reporters on Tuesday.

Major project components include a 230-kV transmission line traversing Matanao, Davao del Sur; Toril, Davao City; and Bunawan, Agusan del Sur; with substations in Malita, Davao Occidental; Matanao, Toril and Bunawan. The project also covers the energization at 230 kV of the transmission line running through Baloi, Lanao del Norte; Villanueva, Misamis Oriental; Maramag, Bukidnon; and Bunawan, with substations in Baloi, Villanueva and Maramag.

The cost estimates for the project were based on cost per kilometer for the transmission lines, which was derived from previous contracts. Also included are charges for technical services such as the cost of route and topological surveys, geologic investigation and right-of-way negotiations and acquisitions as well as relocation expenses.

Mindanao’s proposed transmission backbone is in anticipation of the power to be dispatched by new power plants on the southern island.

Without the new facilities, power output generated in northern Mindanao cannot be dispatched at maximum capacity, while the Davao-Bunawan 138-kV transmission line and the two 300-megavolt ampere (MVA) 230/138-kV transformers in Bunawan substation will be overloaded.

“The Davao-Bunawan 138kV transmission line will be overloaded, if the backbone will not be fully energized at 230kV,” NGCP said in its application.

If the output of all power plants in northern Mindanao is fully dispatched, the power plants in southern Mindanao cannot be dispatched at maximum capacity. The transformers in Baloi substation will also be overloaded.

Two plants in northern Mindanao and three in southern Mindanao are in various stages of development. These plants are expected to be served by the proposed backbone.

Therma South, Inc. has two 150-megawatt (MW) units, one of which started commercial operation in September 2015 and the other in February 2016. Two other units each with a capacity of 150 MW have yet to start.

San Miguel Consolidated Power Corp. has four 150-MW units, one of which has fully completed the testing and commissioning phase while another is being synchronized to the grid. Two 150-MW units have yet to start.

Sarangani Energy Corp. has started the commercial run of its first 105-MW unit in April 2016, while the second 105-MW has yet to start.

FDC Utilities, Inc. has four 135-MW units, which are in various development phases. GN Power Kauswagan Ltd. Co. is building a 540-MW plant with a 2018 target commercial operation.

NGCP said since it took over the operations and maintenance of the country’s power transmission network in 2009, it has put in place “physical and technological upgrades to aging state-owned lines and facilities.”

“Apart from a unified power grid, we want to revolutionize our entire transmission network to exceed those of our Asian neighbors. With every technical upgrade, every facility addition, every process modernization, we are getting there. We want to lead the way,” said Henry T. Sy, Jr., NGCP president and chief executive officer, in a statement on Tuesday.

Among the upgrades is a new application within the national control center that allows the synchronized operation of the main grids Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao from only one platform.

The Luzon grid, which accounts for more than 70% of the country’s total power demand, was reinforced with a backup Luzon regional control center. The backup allows the duplication of the function of the national control center in times of emergency. Backup control centers are in position for the Visayas and Mindanao grids.