As attention swirls around the renewable energy push and political haymakers are thrown over the future of oil and gas deposits in the West Philippine Sea, proven and reliable coal quietly maintains its place as the country’s single-most-utilised fuel source. Cheaply and plentifully available in the Philippines, coal was responsible for generating 34.4% of the country’s electricity in 2010, with a total of 23,301 GWh produced, according to Department of Energy (DoE) data. This represents a 41.4% increase in production, equivalent to 6825 GWh over the previous year.
Low water levels within the Luzon and Mindanao generation grids brought on by the El Niño phenomenon were partially responsible for a decrease in hydropower plant production on the year, which was made up through increased coal power generation. The boost from the Visayas grid was attributed to the commissioning of new coal-fired power plants.
POWER SURGE: Installed capacity of coal-fired plants has surged in the past decade, as the sector has struggled to keep up with a spike in demand, as well as rising electricity prices. As of 2010 the country had 4867 MW of installed capacity fuelled by coal, up 13.8% from 4227 MW in 2009 and 3963 MW in 2000. The majority of this recent generation capacity was integrated into the Visayas grid through three separate coal-fired thermal power plants, totalling 590 MW in installed capacity. The largest of the three is owned and operated by the Cebu Energy Development Corporation (CEDC) and had an installed capacity of 246 MW.
The second 200-MW power plant is operated by the Korea Power Electric Corporation (KEPCO), South Korea’s state-run power company, which now runs power plants with a combined installed capacity of 2050 MW in the country. The newest $451m Cebu plant was partially funded through a $120m loan from the Asian Development Bank and is co-owned by the locally based Salcon Power Corporation. Panay Energy Development Corporation (PEDC) owns and operates the third power plant at La Paz, Iloilo with an installed capacity of 144 MW. The addition of these three power plants boosted generation capacity feeding the Visayas grid to 2407 MW at the end of 2010, 784.8 MW of which is generated from coal. The other plants include the 88-MW Toledo power plant owned by the Global Business Power Corporation and the 50-MW Cebu TPP1 and 56.8-MW Cebu thermal power plant owned by Salcon.
An expansion in coal power capacity is also under way for the Luzon grid, with construction on the new coal-fired 600-MW GNP ower plant in Mariveles, Bataan, beginning in early 2010, with operations expected to start in late 2012 or early 2013. Rehabilitation and expansion plans for recently privatised National Power Corporation assets, including a 400-MW expansion of the Pagbilao power plant through a partnership with the Marubeni Corporation and the Aboitiz Power Corporation, are scheduled to come on-line by 2015.
REGENERATION: Several additions and renovation projects are scheduled for the coming years. According to the National Grid Corporation’s National Development Plan, thousands of megawatts of new coal-fired capacity are expected to come on-line over the next five years. For the Luzon grid, this includes the 300-MW RP Energy power plant located in Subic, Zambales, which is due to be ready in 2013. A 135-MW plant, located in Batangas, is scheduled to become operational in 2014. There are also numerous expansion plans in the works, such as the 500-MW expansion of the Quezon Power Philippines power plant due in 2014.
After the recent glut of new power plants, the Visayas grid has just one new facility in the pipeline, the 60-MW DMCI power plant located in Concepcion, Iloilo, set to come on-line in 2012. The Mindanao grid will receive the output of the 200-MW Kamanga and 200-MW Sultan Kudarat power plants sometime in 2012.
Although it may not generate headlines like hydrocarbons discoveries or eco-friendly renewable ventures, coal is a key part of the country’s energy mix and given all the projects in the pipeline, that certainly looks set to remain the case for many years to come.
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