Coal plant not anymore necessary – Paleco

Palawan protesters express their sentiments against the establishment of coal-fired power plant of DMCI Power Corporation in Narra, Palawan (photo: greeenpeace.org)

The controversial coal-fired power plant project in Palawan is now an “unnecessary option” as there is already sufficient power supply coming from bunker fuel generators of independent power producers, Paleco General Manager Ric Zambales told reporters on Thursday.

Zambales said with the operation of Delta P’s new generators capable of delivering around 26MW and which brings the total dependable power supply to over 70MW, the heavily opposed coal project is not necessary anymore. The current figures, said Zambales, are enough to cover the mainland’s peak demand at 59MW, even as heavy-power consumer SM Mall begins operations in September.

“Hindi na namin inaasahan ang coal power plant kasi mayroon nang 30MW (from combined supply of Delta P),” Zambales said. He also told reporters that DMCI is technically now on an ‘over-contracted’ status with Paleco and hence is less likely to be entertained by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

Paleco’s highest official also believes that DMCI is most likely to stick to its bunker-fed generators, citing investment considerations.

“Actually ‘yung coal siguro tingin ko kahit DMCI baka hindi na rin nila i-push through kasi ang laki na ng kanilang [ibang] investment dun sa Wärtsilä bunker-fed generator sa Aborlan…Bakit pa nila itutuloy ‘yung coal kasi ito pa lang malaki nang investment?”

Delta P’s newest generators officially received approval from the ERC last May after facing delay down the Department of Energy’s bureaucratic pipeline. Zambales said with the additional supply from Delta P, they are confident that current problems in delivering electricity across Palawan will be confined less to power supply and more to temporary infrastructure issues such as damaged transmission lines.

“Wala na tayong problema sa supply,” GM Zambales said. “Na-solve na natin ang power supply kasi we have now Delta P na bago…’Yung transmission line nung una na-upgrade natin. Tumulong din nga kami, ‘yung Paleco, sa upgrading ng tie-line kasi kung di namin sila tutulungan matagal nilang matapos kasi walang budget ang NPC.”

Zambales’ latest statement changes the tune to what has been a prevailing argument that coal plants are necessary for securing reliable electricity in Palawan, a narrative pushed by DMCI itself: “…For the last five years, we have been urging the concerned government units and agencies to approve the construction of our 15-megawatt coal plant to prevent a massive power shortage in the province,” the company said in May.

(RELATED: SPECIAL REPORT: SC is new battleground for coal fight in the Philippines)

DMCI’s proposed projects in Southern Palawan have been heavily opposed by various civil society groups due to potential harmful impacts to the environment and to people’s health. The issue has so far reached the Supreme Court as non-government organizations, led by the Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC), recently filed a petition asking the SC to prevent the Philippine government from pushing through with coal-fired power facilities across the country, including the ones in Palawan.

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