By Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted September 19, 2010
MANILA, Philippinesâ€”Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras wants the Mindanao grid to have at least 500 megawatts (MW) in baseload generation capacity from non-hydro sources such as coal, to insulate the island from severe power outages and unstable supply in the near future.
â€œOur problem in Mindanao is our overdependence on hydropower,â€ Almendras said.
With climate change and the dry spell brought about by the El NiÃ±o phenomenon, water resources get scarce, threatening power supply in Mindanao, he said.
Almendras said the 500 MW of non-hydro baseload generation capacity was needed in Mindanao â€œsince we cannot predict exactly what the water levels will be in Mindanao in the coming years.â€
At present, Mindanao gets more than half of its electricity requirements from hydropower sources, with the Agus-Pulangi hydropower complex providing more than 900 MW. The drought experienced early this year reduced the water levels at the dams and cut power generating capacities on the island to less than 10 percent.
â€œEstimates show that power supply shortfall in Mindanao will only be 50 MW in 2011 but that is because of the assumption that all the hydropower plants will be on stream all year round. In order to insulate Mindanao from power outages, the most ideal thing is to install 500 MW of non hydro capacity,â€ Almendras said.
Over the next 20 years, Mindanao would need 2,500 MW in new capacity, according to Almendras.
He admitted that given the present situation, Mindanao must rely on clean coal-fired facilities to provide the additional capacity.
The good news, he said, was that the government had received commitments from private companies to push through with their coal projects in Mindanao.
Almendras said Conal Holdings Corp. of the Alcantara family would push through with the 200-MW coal facility (SM 200) in Sarangani, the first phase for which will start operating by 2012 while Phase 2 will be available by 2013. The same company, he added, will put up another 100-MW coal facility in Zamboanga (ZAM 100).
Steag State Power, Incâ€”composed of Aboitiz Power Corp., Evonik Steag GmbH of Essen, Germany, and the La Filipina Uy Gongco Corp.â€”is seen putting up a 200-MW coal plant in Misamis Oriental, he added.
â€œAlthough there is no definite schedule yet, we are in talks with them for a possible 24-month implementation,â€ he added.
The energy chief further admitted however that electricity prices in Mindanao would have to increase gradually to reflect the true cost of power and encourage the private sector
to infuse investments into the power sector on the island.
â€œThe bigger challenge in Mindanao is the price. Our brothers in Mindanao have benefited from the low cost of hydro generation all these years, and going by the balance of power and supply, we cannot afford to put in too much technology that will result in a spike in the prices,â€ Almendras said.