GOV. Gwendolyn Garcia supports building baseload power plants in Cebu to meet the province’s need for reliable power to fuel its growing economy and population.
Garcia emphasized the urgent need for Cebu to attain power self-sufficiency to avoid the plight faced by neighboring Panay Island, which wrestled with extensive blackouts earlier in the year due to supply and infrastructure issues.
“We cannot be relying mainly on others for our power. We need to be self-sufficient, not in 2027 but now,” Garcia said in a statement on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024.
Based on Department of Energy (DOE) projections, energy demand for Cebu Island (mainland, Mactan Island, Camotes Islands and Bantayan Island) will reach around 1,400 megawatts (MW) by 2026 and will outpace supply by 2027 – unless new baseload power plants are constructed.
So far, indicative and committed power plant projects in Cebu only include a 240MW solar field in Medellin, as well as around 10MW combined worth of oil-based generators located in Lapu-Lapu City.
Western Visayas experienced an extensive power outage for multiple days early this year which resulted in economic losses reportedly amounting to P5.7 billion for both Iloilo province and Iloilo City.
“I am looking after my constituents who will suffer the inconvenience brought about by the absence of power. I am looking after the welfare of the investors and businesses who are giving employment to our people. I want to avoid the catastrophic effects of one or two power plants shutting down,” Garcia said.
“Do we have plans in place? Do we have the backup power plants to cover for the deficit?” she added.
While energizing the Mindanao-Visayas (MVIP) interconnection project, which connects Mindanao to Santander, Cebu via a submarine power line, is a boost in the country’s energy security, Garcia said Cebu Island should be “self-sufficient” and “reliable” in terms of power.
The P51.3-billion MVIP was officially switched on Friday, Jan. 26 in a ceremony led by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in Malacañan Palace.
Garcia had asked for a meeting of all power generators on the island, the Department of Energy, and the system operator National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) to discuss the energy sector’s plan of action in case one or two major power plant units in the island go to scheduled or unscheduled shutdown.
Garcia’s sentiment echoed that of the business chambers and the NGCP.
“More power supply is always better,” said Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Charles Kenneth Co.
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry incoming president Mark Ynoc noted the crucial role of power as a vital element in the ongoing economic recovery, “especially in preparation for the anticipated arrival of investments and increase in population growth.”
“When there is a pressing need for power then we definitely need additional generation capacity and infrastructure,” he said.
NGCP assistant vice president and head for public affairs Cynthia Perez-Alabanza earlier said, Cebu needs to have additional power plants given its rapid population growth and increased investments after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cebu, according to the NGCP, eats half of the power demand of Visayas. Cebu City, specifically, which belongs to the Visayan Electric franchise, consumes half of the province’s demand.
“That’s how huge the demand of Cebu is,” said Alabanza, adding that this is the reason the MVIP passes directly to Cebu.
On Wednesday, Jan. 31, officials from Aboitiz Power Corp. visited Garcia to update her on the status of their power plants on the island as well as their projections on the economic growth and future energy needs of Cebu.
Garcia said even with the MVIP, Cebu could experience a thinning of energy demand and supply by 2027 or 2028. The Provincial Government also takes into consideration the possibility that long-distance and submarine power lines will be severed especially during natural calamities like Typhoon Odette (Rai).
Aboitiz Power is looking at different options to meet the growing energy demands of Cebu, including the expansion of its Therma Visayas Inc. (TVI) facility in Toledo City. TVI currently operates a 340-megawatt coal-fired power plant composed of two units of 170 MW each. TVI is a joint venture between Aboitiz Power Corp. and Vivant Corp.
In December 2023, the DOE issued 21 projects for system impact study (SIS) to the NGCP, including the 169 MW expansion project of TVI in Toledo City. SIS refers to an engineering study that evaluates the impact of planned interconnection or integration of a power facility, primarily if the load can be accommodated by the current capacity of the transmission system without compromising the safety and reliability of the grid.