COAL TECHNOLOGY is getting cleaner and remains the most cost-efficient choice under current government policy on power generation, which is “technology neutral,” the head of a major power generating firm said.
Rogelio L. Singson, president and CEO of Meralco PowerGen Corp. (MGen) said the company’s next project will be a more efficient ultra-supercritical facility with lower emissions than the 500-megawatt (MW) plant it launched in Mauban, Quezon on Tuesday.
“Right now because the policy of the government is technology neutral… what is the cheapest baseload? Ang pinakamura (The cheapest) is still going to be coal,” he told reporters during the launch.
“We’re hoping that we will be able to build the next level, which is the ultra-supercritical [coal-fired power plant],” he said.
“Iyan ‘yung (That’s the) 1,200 MW that we bid for. Unfortunately, there was a failed bidding.”
He said he expects a second round of bidding, with MGen’s parent firm Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) holding a competitive selection process, or CSP, to arrive at the least-cost power for the distribution utility’s customers.
“So we will participate,” he said. “But having said that, we’re now going through an energy transition where we are committing to 1,000 to 1,200 MW of renewable [energy],” he said. “The problem that we are encountering is that we are facing transmission constraints.”
On Tuesday, MGen formally inaugurated the P56.2-billion San Buenaventura Power Ltd. Co. (SBPL), the country’s first supercritical coal-fired power plant, which now provides additional supply to the Luzon grid.
“The country’s most advanced operational coal plant uses a high-efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal technology that allows the plant to operate at increasingly higher temperatures and pressures to reach higher efficiencies, while significantly reducing emissions,” the company said in a statement handed out during the launch.
“Similar and more advanced coal plant technologies have been the choice for new commercial coal-fired plants in many countries around the world. As a pioneer of this technology, SBPL is setting the bar higher in operating coal plants in the Philippines,” it added.
SBPL started commercial operations on Sept. 26, and currently generates power for Luzon, which accounts for about 72% of the country’s domestic output, it said. The plant’s cost was partly funded by a P42.15-billion project finance facility, which is said to be the Philippines’ largest all-peso transaction to date.
A consortium of Philippine banks put together the facility.
The power plant was built by a consortium of South Korea’s Daelim Industrial Co. Ltd. and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp., which MGen described as “experienced engineering, procurement and construction contractors with very strong track records.”
The SBPL plant is a partnership between MGen, with a 51% stake, and New Growth BV, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Electricity Generating Company of Thailand (EGCO), the first independent power producer in Thailand. It has the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) as a controlling shareholder.
“The more important thing is it’s a baseload [plant],” Mr. Singson said, referring to a facility that is always running to meet the base requirement of the power system. “We need baseload. Let’s not fool ourselves.”
During the launch, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi urged EGCO to invest more in power plant projects in the Philippines on its own since full foreign ownership is allowed.
“We want your investment,” he said.
Agnes VST Devanadera, chairman and chief executive officer of the Energy Regulatory Commission, said the plant has transformed the town of Mauban into a “very vibrant and very progressive community.”
“No plant like this can ever go up without the support of the community,” she said.
Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT, Inc., Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Victor V. Saulon