Mindanao traders cite urgent need for more power plants

- Donnabelle L. Gatdula () - September 20, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Big Mindanao-based business leaders are calling for the construction of additional generating capacities throughout the island.

Ralph Paguio, chairman of the Cagayan de Oro City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Mindanao needs to “power up” to meet the growing demand of power supply and to veer away from too much reliance on hydroelectric dams as source of electricity.

“We would prefer that we have the right amount of generation mix - hydro, fossil fuel, geothermal and other renewables - for our power needs,” Paguio said.

More than 53 percent of Mindanao’s power supply comes from hydroelectric power plants, the biggest of which is the Agus River Dam Complex, located in Northern Mindanao.

Paguio, however, said hydro power plants are vulnerable to weather changes and are dependent on water supply.

Prolonged dry spell during the first half of the year has led to the disruption of power supply in the island prompting the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to implement rotating brownouts in the island. Paguio also said Midnanao needs to boost its reserve capacity to deal with such situation.

“The ideal situation is to have a reserve capacity equivalent to your largest generating capacity,” Paguio explained.

Paguio, whose business chamber is hosting the ongoing Mindanao Business Conference in Cagayan de Oro, said it is impractical to maintain reserve capacity equivalent to 900 megawatts, the installed capacity of the Agus Rive Dam Complex.

The chamber president said he welcomes new power plant projects that are not tied up to hydroelectricity.

Paguio’s statement follows Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras’ desire for power companies to build more baseload power plants.

“We need baseload generation as soon as possible,” Almendras said, when asked by reporters to comment on the decision of the Aboitiz group to reduce the share of hydroelectric power plants in favor of clean coal facilities.

He said there is really a need for these kinds of baseload power facilities.

Baseload plants are the production facilities used to meet some or all of a given region’s continuous energy demand, and produce energy at a constant rate, usually at a low cost relative to other production facilities available to the system. Examples of baseload plants using nonrenewable fuels include nuclear and coal-fired plants.

Aside from the Aboitiz Group, Conal Holdings Corp., and San Miguel Corp. have shown interest in putting up new coal-fired power plants. Conal will soon start construction of its 200-megawatt coal-fired power station in Maasim, Sarangani while Aboitiz is holding talks with STEAG for possible additional 150-megawatt generating capacity in its Villanueva power plant complex in Misamis Oriental.

San Miguel has also announced that it is planning to build a coal-fired power plant in General Santos City. Paguio said these projects should help ease growing power supply shortage in the island.

He, however ,said these projects should be affordable and “rightly priced.” In addition, Paguio said these new power plants should be environment friendly.   

Except for the Conal Holdings project, all these generating capacities are still in the drawing board.

Conal, will use the latest technology in power generation using coal as fuel.

Included in the multi-million dollar power plant project is a massive agro-forestry project which will cost Conal Holdings at least $13.5 million or P607 million.

Last summer, Mindanao suffered severe power outages because of the impact of the recent El Niño phenomenon. Both consumers and suppliers of electricity realized a need for a diversified fuel sources. Mindanao was totally dependent on hydro but when they had a water problem because there was no rain, all of a sudden the island was out of power.

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