DMCI Offers to Put Up Coal Power Plant Here

One of the country’s power industry big players, DMCI Power Corporation, has reportedly offered to establish a coal-fired power plant in Catanduanes, with coal to be sourced from its parent company’s mine in Semirara island.

First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) General Manager Engr. Samuel Laynes confirmed in a press conference last week that DMCI-PC officials communicated to the cooperative its intention to join the Catanduanes grid as a new power provider and to put up a 7.5-megawatt coal-fired power plant using coal mined from the country’s largest coal mine in Semirara island in Antique. Another 7.5-MW coal-fired plant would also be installed in the next few years once the first is on line.

The press briefing was conducted following a spate of power outages caused by yet another breakdown of the 3.6-megawatt bunker-fuel power plant of Catanduanes Power Generation, Inc. (CPGI).

GM Laynes disclosed that DMCI has assured that brand-new equipment would be installed and that only coal from Semirara would be used, to allay fears that the company would eventually bid for coal blocks in Catanduanes.

FICELCO, he said, is not engaging in a blame game with regards to CPGI’s failure to supply its contracted power of 22.6 million kilowatt-hours but the co-op is working on concrete steps to address a forecast increase in demand.

“The cooperative is contemplating an invitation to other IPPs to augment existing plants in order to provide adequate supply of electricity in the next 20 years,” Laynes said. He added that it has proven very expensive to run diesel plants while the three hydro-electric power plants’ production is often hampered by lack of rain during summer.

On the other hand, he said, while solar power is promising, there are reservations as to where the solar farm could be located so as to prevent any damage to expensive solar panels due to strong winds generated by frequent typhoons.

CPGI’s bunker-fuel plant is cheaper to run, Laynes pointed out, but the engine, rented from National Power Corporation by the co-op which in turn leased it to CPGI, is already old. “The capability is there, but the reliability is no longer there,” he stressed, citing CPGI’s frequent breakdowns.

Records show that, compared to its contracted load of 22.6 million kWh under its Electricity Supply Agreement (ESA) with FICELCO, CPGI has performed below par, delivering 11.362 million kWh in 2009, 15.806 million kWH in 2010, 5.723 millon kWh in 2011, and 9.745 million kWh last year. The CPGI contract runs for 10 years until 2021, with the co-op apparently not waiting for it to end before entertaining other interested power producers.

With actual demand in 2012 reaching a record 38.5 million kWh, FICELCO estimates power demand would rise by seven percent in the next five years to 57.8 million kWh. NPC is set to install three 1-megawatt diesel gensets by June next year while Sunwest Water & Electric Co. is set to go full-blast in the construction of its proposed 2.4-mW Kapipian mini-hydro power plant to be completed in two to three years. No other power plant is being planned in the next foreseeable future, thus FICELCO’s desire to ensure there will be enough supply in the next decade.

GM Laynes said that while DMCI has yet to submit a formal proposal to FICELCO, he hopes its terms of reference would be mutually beneficial to both companies. DMCI reportedly plans to use a helicopter to scout for possible sites along the coast.

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The Consunji company would also like to debunk the popular notion that coal is dirty as it would be using new equipment and technology effective at reducing ash emissions. During the administration of then Gov. Hector Sanchez, Laynes recalled, there was a plan to put up a coal power plant. But the fact that the plant facility was a secondhand one, with huge costs to be incurred in bringing the plant from the United States of America to Catanduanes, doomed the proposal.

“The possibility of this coal-fired power plant being established would depend much on the consensus of various sectors and our political leaders,” he said. The GM has already aired the DMCI proposal during the recently clergy meeting of the Diocese of Virac led by Bishop Manolo delos Santos, a known anti-mining advocate.

Laynes informed that once approved, the DMCI coal power plant could be up and running in a short time, probably before the end of 2014.

Weighing in on the development, NPC plant superintendent Engr. Edwin Tatel said there is a possibility for cheaper power if DMCI bids for a lower generation cost. He advised that consumers be vigilant and focus on the proposed contract during the selection process to be conducted by FICELCO.

Catanduanes Tribune