Mindanao needs coal-fired power plants – Aquino

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/08 January) – Building coal-fired power plants is necessary to respond to Mindanao’s power needs even as the country is developing renewable energy projects to mitigate the effects of climate change, President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday said.

Speaking at the inauguration of the coal-fired power plant of Therma South Inc., a subsidiary of Aboitiz Power, Aquino emphasized the need to build more baseload power plants that can be tapped anytime “rain or shine, with very minor fluctuations.”

He lashed at critics who opposed the construction of coal-fired power plants due to its potential risks to the environment.

“They (Aboitiz Power) did all this even in the face of harsh critics who would speak loudly against us during the dry period—when the hydropower production is low—and completely forget about the issue during the rainy season. These critics also made the most unreasonable demands: cheap, renewable, and sufficient energy, delivered yesterday,” he said in a three-page speech.

Aquino was the guest of honor during the inauguration of the plant at Toril District in Davao City.

The president said the construction of the coal plants could not be prevented since Mindanao is in dire need of power but that they have not set aside developing more renewable energy projects to address climate change.

He said at least 33 percent of the country’s energy mix came from renewable sources. In Mindanao, over half of the island’s supply comes from hydropower sources that rely on rainfall.

“The Mindanao situation has made it obvious that we also need more baseload power. After all, while I am a believer in developing renewables, at this point we are still hounded by the questions: What if there’s no wind? What if the clouds are overcast and the solar efficiency is down? What if we do not have enough biomass? Unfortunately, right now, we cannot wean ourselves completely from relying on coal,” he said.

Aquino said Mindanao’s power woes started when no investors came to Mindanao to build more capacities while the demand has continued to grow after Mindanao legislators sought for a 10-year exemption from the Electric Power Industry Reform Act.

“The result: As the demand for electricity grew, the supply didn’t. In fact, the hydroelectric plants that were once abundant sources of energy suffered from a number of factors, including the lack of regular maintenance, the vanishing watersheds, and the worsening effects of climate change,” he said.

President Benigno Aquino III and Erramon Aboitiz, president of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, lead the symbolic launching of the 300-megawatt Therma Marine South coal-fired power plant in Barangay Binugao, Toril District, Davao City on Friday, Jan. 8, 2015. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo President Benigno Aquino III and Erramon Aboitiz, president of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, lead the symbolic launching of the 300-megawatt Therma Marine South coal-fired power plant in Barangay Binugao, Toril District, Davao City on Friday, Jan. 8, 2015. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

“In recent years, Mindanao has had very little energy surplus. In 2010, this resulted in rotating brownouts that understandably frustrated our countrymen, and that stifled local economies. This was a problem we had anticipated even before we took office, which is why, from day one, we made a stern commitment to foster an environment that would encourage the private sector to make massive investments in energy in Mindanao,” he said.

Two more units from the San Miguel Corporation, each with 150-MW capacity, will start commercial operation by second quarter of this year, according to Noriel Christopher Reyes, science research specialist II at the Department of Energy II at the Department of Energy’s Electric Power Industry Management Bureau, in a forum on power outlook for Mindanao in November 2015 in Davao City.

Won’t harm environment

Aboitiz Power CEO Erramon I Aboitiz assured Mindanao stakeholders that the company’s latest Therma South Energy Project in Toril will not harm the environment, saying the destructive impact of power plants “is now a thing of the past.”

Aboitiz said the coal-fired power plant does not pollute the air as there is no smoke emission, claiming they brought in the most modern technology to build this plant.

The pollution “will not be tolerated under Aboitiz watch,” he said.

He said the power firm cannot afford putting its host communities at risk since they have been home to Aboitiz companies for years.

The plant site is between Toril and Barangay Inawayan, Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur.

“The power plant uses the latest circulating fluidized bed combustion technology that minimizes emissions and ensures that the power plant meets Philippine Clean Air Act (RA 8749) standards. It houses the country’s first coal dome, which provides a safe and efficient way to store coal fuel,” he said.

He added “the power plant also uses an Electrostatic Precipitator, which electrically charges and removes more than 99 percent of dust and other particles from the effluents.”

The power plant will be monitored by the Continuous Emission Monitoring System of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau to ensure it adheres to RA 8749.

A multi-partite monitoring team was set up since the start of plant construction in 2012 to ensure compliance with the environmental compliance certificate. The team was composed of non-government organizations, government agencies and regulators.

The power firm partnered with the indigenous people to establish a carbon sink management program in Marilog, Davao City.

Aboitiz said the company infused a total of P35 billion for the completion of TSI’s two units, and employed over 4,500 coming from its host communities at its peak.

The 150-MW of TSI 1 started commercial operation last September 2015 while the 150-MW TSI 2 is currently undergoing “reliability test” before it will go on commercial operation next month.

A total of 100 MW has been contracted to Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC), another fully-owned subsidiary of Aboitiz Power, while the rest will be delivered to over 20 electric cooperatives and distribution utilities in Caraga, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, parts of Bukidnon, parts of Misamis and parts of Zamboanga Peninsula, Aboitiz said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)