The Department of Energy (DOE) earlier this month signed the operating contract for the joint venture agreement between the city government and Austworks Corp. to put up the country’s first-ever waste-to-energy plant in Puerto Princesa City.
This P2.1 billion waste-to-energy plant will be constructed at the City Sanitary Landfill in Barangay Sta. Lourdes.
Through the Westinghouse thermal gasification technology, the power plant will use all wastes collected at the landfill, including hazardous and hospital waste, as feedstock to generate some 5.5 megawatt electricity.
“Compared to other power providers, this one is eco-friendlier since it has no harmful emission,” City administrator and legal officer Arnel Pedrosa told Palawan News.
Aside from the added power supply that would help meet the city’s growing energy requirement, Puerto Princesa also stands to benefit from the project revenue.
Under the agreement signed as early as August 2016, the city government could get P20 million a year or 5 percent share from the annual gross revenue of the facility’s energy sales.
“It’s advantageous to us in terms of profitability,” Pedrosa said.
He said it would also make the city government save P40 million a year, which is its budget allocation for solid waste collection. This as Austworks will do the actual waste collection.
He added that with the construction of a waste-to-energy project, there will be no need to build another landfill.
Pedrosa, however, clarified that the project will not encourage the public to generate more wastes. He said the city’s growing economy and population would satisfy the facility’s daily 110-metric ton feedstock requirement.
“Puerto Princesa’s population continuously increases and so our garbage collection. As our economy performs well, more and more are getting jobs. When the income of every family grows, there’s also an increase in consumption and eventually domestic waste generation,” he added.
Once the existing sanitary landfill is emptied out, Pedrosa said the city government will ultimately shut it down, as recommended by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Last year, the DENR Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) recommended the closure of the Santa Lourdes landfill after it was determined to be one of the main sources of mercury contamination in the area.
The bacteria coming from the leachate that drains from the said landfill boost the mercury level in the pit lake, making it more hazardous to public health, especially to the community living near the lake, according to the DENR MGB study.
Last year, the DENR has issued the city government a notice of violation based on the continued operation and management of the landfill facility.
“The waste-to-energy project is timely. We can even use this joint venture agreement as a solution to the problem. There would be no continuing violations since we’re going to convert the existing wastes to energy,” Pedrosa said.
As opposed to the existing landfill, the waste-to-energy facility’s in-house waste management system would “not trigger mercury contamination” in the pit lake, said Mary Ann Joylle Madriñan, senior environment management specialist at the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO).
She said they will be monitoring the renewable energy plant to ensure it meets environmental standards, as indicated on the terms and conditions under its strategic environmental plan clearance and ECC.
“There will be a multipartite monitoring team who will quarterly check its compliance,” said Madriñan, who heads the City ENRO’s environmental management services division.
Alexander Coden, chief of the Provincial Environmental Management Office, a DENR EMB-attached agency, said his office welcomes the project “as long as it complies the requirements set by our environmental laws.”
“To date, Senate Bill 506 or the Waste-to-Energy Technology Bill is pending. Once enacted into law, every local government is required to enter into such kind of project to resolve the solid wastes problem, at the same time to provide solution to power supply issue in their locality,” he told Palawan News.
Based on the agreement, Austworks will start preparation of the Detailed Engineering and Design (DED) within thirty 30 days from the signing of the DOE operating contract. Construction would start within 15 days after the DOE’s approval of the DED.