DAVAO CITY--Cebuano-owned company Aboitiz Power Corp. says it has found the answer to Mindanao’s long-running power crisis.

Its fully-owned subsidiary, Therma South Inc. (TSI), inaugurated a 300-megawatt coal power plant here yesterday.

The company believes that it will help address Mindanao’s power shortage and its ever-growing demand.

Mindanao, according to AboitizPower chief executive officer (CEO) Erramon Aboitiz, has become “overly dependent” on hydro powerplants, where it is sourcing more than 50 percent of its power requirements. With El Niño, the case becomes more problematic.

The first unit of the power plant, which has a capacity of 150 MW, started commercial operations in September last year, while the second one with another 150 MW will be in full commercial operation in February next month. Construction cost reached P35 billion.

“As it is not dependent on weather conditions, the Davao baseload plant is able to continue generating much needed power, even with Mindanao experiencing dry spells caused by El Niño this year and the droughts occurring roughly once every decade,” AboitizPower said in a statement.

The Davao City powerplant in Barangay Binugao in Toril district is supplying baseload power to more than 20 electric cooperatives and distribution utilities in Mindanao, which includes the cities of Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Zamboanga, Butuan, Kidapawan, Tagum, Koronadal, Digos, Pagadian, and Cotabato.

President Benigno Aquino III was yesterday’s guest of honor and was accompanied by Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada. Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was invited but was not seen during the ceremony. Instead, Karlos Bello, Davao City’s Acting Mayor, spoke on Duterte’s behalf, noting the economic benefits the project would have on the city. Davao del Sur Sta. Cruz Mayor Joel Ray Lopez was alsopresent yesterday.

While the operation of new power plant is a welcome development, Mindanao Development Authority Director for Investment Promotions and Public Affairs Romeo Montenegro said the 300 MW powerplant, although a booster to Mindanao’s power supply, cannot assure “no brownouts” in Southern Philippines.

“The entry of Aboitiz is big enough to be able to at least eliminate a large chunk of the shortage...it would (only) be able to address the needs of electric cooperatives that are contracted to it,” said Montenegro Peak demand in Mindanao is about 1,400 MW.

“If the electric cooperatives are contracted to powerplants, which will come online by 2018, then that’s a different story,” he added.

More worrisome, Montenegro noted, is the “financial problem” faced by electric cooperatives. He said the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which includes Basilan, Sulu, Maguindanao, Tawi-Tawi, and Lanao del Sur, might still experience longer hours of brownouts.

“(This one) is not a supply issue. It’s a financial problem of the electric cooperatives and that limits their ability to contract capacity with whatever plants that come online,” said the MDA investment promotions director.

For this year alone, Montenegro said powerplants that are scheduled to go online will have a total capacity of 700 MW. From 2016 to 2018, this will reach 2,000 MW.

San Miguel and Filinvest power generation arms will be two of these power players coming to Mindanao, said Montenegro.

In addition, AboitizPower said that it is also doubling the capacity of its existing hydro powerplant in Mindanao. The company, through its subsidiary Hedcor, has been operating a hydro power plant in Bukidnon that generates more than 50 MW. This capacity will soon double with the completion of Hedcor’s 68.8MW Manolo Fortich project in 2017.