CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Thermal plants are still the best solution to the Mindanao power problem in the long run, Energy Secretary Jose C. Ibazeta said here on Monday during a consultation with stakeholders.
“The present power rate in Mindanao is too cheap, no investors would be interested to come in,” said the Energy chief in reference to the island’s dependence on low-cost hydroelectric power.
“There is nothing wrong with a coal plant and we have to reach out to the people who are complaining against this. There should be a massive awareness program that Mindanao can’t survive on hydro[power] alone,” he said.
Based on earlier estimates, generation cost of hydropower is less than P1 per kilowatt-hour (kwh) compared with over P10/kwh for most thermal plants.
But thermal plants, said Mr. Ibazeta, would increase the competitiveness of the grid as private investors see profit in their operation even as it also increases the grid’s generation efficiency.
Before the power crisis, the generation mix on the island was 53% hydropower, 17% oil, 19% coal, and 11% geothermal.
Presently, the mix has turned into 40% oil, 26% hydropower, 24% coal, and 10% geothermal.
The Department of Energy, said Mr. Ibazeta, would also be pushing for submarine cable that would connect the Mindanao grid to the Visayas.
For short-term targets, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) has assured power stakeholders of positive reserves for May 9, 10 and 11 as new sources of power go online this month.
Crystal Sugar Co. Inc.’s Biogen Cogen Power Plant will be adding seven to nine megawatts (MW) either directly to the Mindanao grid or through the Bukidnon I Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Pablo L. Lobregat, president of the company said the plant is ready and they are just waiting to be connected to electric distributors.
Hedcor Inc.’s Sibulan hydroelectric plant in Davao del Sur is also expected to start operation this month, adding 42 MW more to the grid. The Southern Philippines Power Corp. will also be able to add 5.5 MW from its power station in Sarangani.
The Iligan Diesel Power Plants 1 and 2 will be run by Alsons/Conal Holdings, Energy officials said. However, Plant 2 will not be available early enough for the elections. Output of Plant 1 will instead be increased from 30 MW to 40 MW.
Western Mindanao Power Corp., which had been undergoing maintenance, will be increasing its generation from 90 MW to 100 MW, it was reported.
The Agus plants will similarly increase production. The projected grid reserves will be at 133 MW for May 9, and 108 MW for May 10 and 11. Days preceding and after that, reserves will be negative.
At present, the Agus plants only have a total of 160 MW peak capacity with an average output of 100 MW.
National Power Corp. president, Froilan A. Tampinco said the increase in hydropower generation is temporary. –BusinessWorld