CEBU CITY -- President Gloria Arroyo on Friday switched on in Toledo City a 72-megawatt (mw) power plant, the first of three units the Cebu Energy Development Corp. (CEDC) will complete within the year.

With 72 mw in dependable capacity from the plant, Visayan Electric Company (Veco) spokesperson Ethel Natera said they now have enough power and no longer have to draw additional electricity from the Cebu-Negros-Panay (CNP) grid.

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Veco, aside from the contracted amount of power it gets from the grid, used to ask for more, particularly to meet the peak demand of 350 mw.

“We have enough to meet our demand. Before, we used to get additional power from the (CNP) grid,” she said.

In her speech, Arroyo thanked CEDC for investing in the power sector. The additional power will end the rotation brownouts in the Visayas and enable the region to export power to Luzon.

Natera said Veco started receiving generated power by the new plant last Monday.

Veco distributes power from CEDC-Toledo Power Corp., National Power Corp., independent power producer Cebu Private Power Corp. and Cemex Philippines.

Once the second unit is available two months from now, Veco expects to get 35 mw, or around half of the generated power.

Power from the third unit will be distributed in the grid, which will also get Panay EDC’s 82-mw gross capacity from a new unit by October.

A power outage did hit Mandaue City and part of Consolacion town Friday, but Natera said a defective device of Veco, not supply problems, caused it.

The device was fixed as soon as possible and power was restored at 9:20 a.m., she said.

In a press statement, CEDC said the second unit of its 246-mw “clean coal-fired power planted in Toledo City is expected to be online at the end of May, while the third unit will be available at the end of December this year.”

CEDC, a consortium of Global Business Power Corp., Aboitiz Power Corp., Vivant Energy Corp. and Formosa Heavy Industries Corp., has invested $450 million, or at least P20 billion, in what is considered the “single largest power plant investment in Cebu.”

President Arroyo said the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) prohibited the government from building more power plants, and instead opened the opportunity to the private sector.

“We had to campaign hard for our private sector to invest in power…. Cebu and Panay EDC have responded,” she said.

“The whole of Visayas can now meet its present needs and a little extra power. The additional power signals the end of rotating brownouts and the burden of importing power from Luzon.... From being an importer of power, it can now become an exporter of power to Luzon and Mindanao,” Arroyo added.

She thanked the consortium for using clean coal technology and for helping establish a “green, healthy economy” by promising a reforestation project in Central Cebu.

Arroyo witnessed the signing of an agreement for a co-managed 100-hectare reforestation project with Secretary Horacio Ramos, Toledo City Mayor Arlene Zambo and CEDC president Jess Alcordo.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said additional power will help boost Cebu’s reputation as the “country’s top tourism and investment destination.”

“An added boost at such a crucial time when Cebu is at an unprecedented stage of growth,” she said.

Zambo, on the other hand, said the switching on signals not only the operation of a new plant but of “more progress in Toledo.”

In a power system update released Friday, the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) reported that as of March 4, more power plants in the Visayas, particularly those that underwent preventive maintenance, went online last Thursday, padding the CNP grid reserve.

Luzon, though, continues to suffer shortage, with a generation deficiency of 446 mw. Mindanao’s deficit went up to 650 mw, due to a bigger demand and the limited capacity of its hydroelectric power plants amid a dry spell.

NGCP is responsible for transmitting high-voltage power from the power plants to the distribution utilities like the Veco.

With the President were Governor Garcia, Representative Pablo John Garcia (Cebu Province, 3rd district) and Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu, 4th district), Toledo City Mayor Zambo and her father and Vice Mayor Aurelio Espinosa. (Rene H. Martel/With Jujemay G. Awit of Sun.Star Cebu)