CEBU’S business sector welcomes the expansion of power plants in Cebu to support various industries’ growth and shield the province from economic losses due to power outages similar to what happened earlier in Western Visayas.
In December 2023, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued 21 projects for system impact study (SIS) to the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP), including the 169 megawatts (MW) expansion project of Therma Visayas Inc. (TVI) in Barangay Bato in Toledo City, Cebu.
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.
“More power supply is always better,” said Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Charles Kenneth Co.
Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) incoming president Mark Ynoc emphasized the 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.
The extensive power outage endured in Western Visayas for multiple days early this year has resulted in reported economic losses amounting to P5.7 billion for both Iloilo province and Iloilo City.
“Constant power interruptions have widespread effects on our communities, extending beyond mere inconvenience. They affect not only businesses, livelihood and the delivery of basic services to the people, but they have dire and far-reaching consequences on the lives of citizens,” Senate President Miguel Zubiri said in a statement after the outage.
As of Jan. 26, NGCP noted that the Visayas grid had the thinnest power reserves among the three main island groups.
Visayas had an available generating capacity of 2,411 megawatts (MW) and a system peak demand of 2,1117 MW or a margin of only 269 MW as power reserves.
Luzon has 3,608 MW power reserves while Mindanao has 802 MW.
The NGCP earlier said that as power consumption increases with the full reopening of the economy, Cebu all the more needs additional capacity.
Cebu, according to the transmission company, accounts for half of the power demand of the Visayas region, while Metro Cebu, specifically the four towns and four cities covered by the Visayan Electric franchise, accounts for half of the province’s demand.
Carbon emissions concern
While prospects of a new power plant are being welcomed, there is resistance from environmental activists who have expressed apprehensions regarding carbon emissions.
But Steven Yu, former president of the MCCI, said the economic impact of the possible power outages due to lack of electricity outweighs the environmental concerns about the use of coal.
He said this will be “the last remaining non-renewable energy (RE) expansions and can be offset by carbon credits in the future.”
“It is public knowledge that our plants are aging, starting to frequently break down and we are lacking sufficient spare capacity to supplant it if something massive (like a) simultaneous breakdown happens,” Yu said.
“While we are scaling up on our RE generation capacity, this will help stabilize our power supply versus demand and avoid costly blackouts. The negative environmental effects are being outweighed by the positive impact to the economy and other offsetting carbon reduction measures,” Yu said.
“Aboitiz, being a responsible corporate citizen, will surely use green technology to keep the coal clean,” added Co.
TVI’s expansion of the coal plant in Toledo City will use the Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) that is being used in Units 1 and 2 of TVI. The Toledo-based power plant also uses the Best Available Control Technology to minimize coal dust emissions that can harm the atmosphere.
Coal, according to the DOE, is a sought-after energy source worldwide. It has the largest reserve and is often the cheapest of the fuel options. The Philippines is largely a coal-consuming country with coal having the highest contribution to the power generation mix at 58 percent in 2021.
“Now that clean coal technologies are available, the demand for coal has remained steady despite the current stringent standard on environmental concerns,” the DOE said on its website.
TVI, a joint venture between Aboitiz Power Corp. and Vivant Corp., is one of the two coal-fired power plants in the country that houses a coal dome facility, second only to its sister plant Therma South Inc. The coal storage facility is said to secure fuel deposits while mitigating the spread of coal dust into the air.
TVI currently operates the 340 MW (two units of 170 MW each) Toledo power plant in western Cebu.