San Buenaventura plant on track to start operations by mid-2019

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The 500-megawatt San Buenaventura Power Plant will rise within an existing plant in Mauban, Quezon province. It is set to begin commercial operations in the first half of 2019. --

By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

CONSTRUCTION of the 455-megawatt (MW) San Buenaventura power plant in Quezon province is more than halfway completed, Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) officials said, noting the project is on track to start commercial operations by mid-2019.

“San Buenaventura is maturing. We’re in the middle of the construction period,” Oscar S. Reyes, Meralco president and chief executive officer, told reporters.

The supercritical coal-fired power plant in Mauban, Quezon, under San Buenaventura Power Ltd. Co. (SBPL), is a partnership between Meralco PowerGen Corp. (MGen) and New Growth BV, a subsidiary of the Electricity Generating Public Co. Ltd. or EGCO Group of Thailand.

“The construction of this power project is now on its 23rd month,” said Angelito U. Lantin, Meralco senior vice-president. “The project is on schedule and within the budget and we expect it to be in commercial operation by mid-2019.”

Mr. Lantin said MGen had started preparing for the next phase of the project – operation and maintenance – in the next few months.

The electricity generated by the plant will be sold to Meralco under a 20-year power supply agreement (PSAs) that was approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) in 2015, the same year SBPL secured a P42.15-billion funding from a consortium of local banks.

In contrast to SBPL, three other power plant projects where MGen has a significant stake are unable to move to their next phases of development as they await ERC approval of their PSAs. Banks require an approved PSA before extending financing to make sure the project has a steady stream of cash.

Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc. (RP Energy), in which MGen has a 47% stake, signed in April 2016 a PSA with Meralco for 225 MW of the first 300 MW unit, and 75 MW with the retail electricity supply business of Aboitiz Power Corp.

Therma Power, Inc., a unit of AboitizPower, owns 25% of RP Energy, while Taiwan Cogeneration International Corp. holds another 25%.

“This PSA with Meralco is still being processed at the ERC. It’s taking quite some time, it’s now on its 18th month,” said Mr. Lantin.

“RP Energy’s construction contracts and debt financing agreements are in place. At the moment, there are limited site works ongoing and this is in preparation for full construction works after we receive the PSA approval,” he added.

MGen previously said site development had been substantially completed for the RP Energy’s two-unit circulating fluidized bed coal-fired power plant, each with an identical capacity of 300 MW.

Atimonan One Energy, Inc. (A1E) is also awaiting ERC-approval of its PSA. It is also evaluating and negotiating with the bidders for its engineering, procurement and construction work.

“We recently signed mandate letters with a group of seven Philippine banks for P107-billion debt financing for this project. Easily this will be the biggest project finance deal done locally,” said Mr. Lantin.

A1E is an ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant with two units, each with a capacity of 600 MW. Meralco previously placed the cost of the project at P135 billion.

“Once built, this will be the most efficient coal plant in the country. It will deliver less emissions per kilowatt hour of electricity that is generated,” Mr. Lantin said, adding the project is expected to deliver power “at the cheapest possible price.”

St. Raphael Power Generation Corp., a 50-50 partnership between MGen and Consunji-led Semirara Mining and Power Corp., is also awaiting ERC approval of its 400-MW PSA with Meralco. The planned coal power plant in Calaca, Batangas has two units, each with a capacity of 350 MW.

Mr. Lantin said further delays in the power plant projects would have an impact on the adequacy of electricity supply from 2020 up to 2023.

“These new capacities cannot be built unless PSA is approved by ERC,” he said.