Coal-fired plant classified ‘of national significance’

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By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

GNPOWER KAUSWAGAN Ltd. Co. has secured approval from the Energy department for its application to be certified as an energy project of national significance, making it the biggest Mindanao-based coal-fired power plant to enjoy the benefits of an executive order that assures a faster approval process.

“There were some additional NPC (National Power Corp. or Napocor) projects and then a couple of hydro projects,” said Patrick T. Aquino, a director at the Department of Energy (DoE) and head of the Energy Investment Coordinating Council (EICC) secretariat.

“From the batch of NPC and NGCP (National Grid Corp. of the Philippines) the Secretary [Alfonso G. Cusi] endorsed one coal power project, several renewable energy projects — there’s solar, there’s hydro,” he said in a chance interview during a forum on disaster risk reduction on Thursday.

Mr. Aquino was not able to give an enumeration of the renewable energy projects that were approved by Mr. Cusi before he left for China with the government’s economic officials.

A certificate of energy project of national significance (CEPNS) entitles project proponents to all the rights and privileges provided for under Executive Order 30 series of 2017, including action on the application within 30 working days.

Certified projects also enjoy presumption of prior approval, that is, they are presumed to have already complied with the requirements and permits from other government permitting agencies.

It will be deemed approved if no action is made five days after the lapse of the 30 working-day period for processing of the application.

GNPower Kauswagan, a project of Ayala-led AC Energy, Inc., is building a four-unit “clean” coal-fired power plant, each with an identical capacity of 138 megawatts (MW) or a total of 552 MW in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte. Its certification was granted on March 13, 2019.

Based on data from the DoE, the four units of the power plant are set for commercial operation within the year, respectively in May, July, September and October.

The power plant is listed under the DoE’s “committed” projects or those that have closed project financing. It was able to secure a financial arrangement on May 28, 2014, and obtained and signed commitments from several lenders on Dec. 23, 2014. Documents for additional funding were signed on Dec. 17, 2015.

GNPower Kauswagan has also received provisional authority from the Energy Regulatory Commission for its power supply agreements with 20 participating electric cooperatives.

In January, up to 32 small capacity diesel-fired power plant projects by Napocor and 29 projects by NGCP were issued certification by the EICC, an interagency panel led by representatives from the DoE.

The EICC was created pursuant to EO 30, which was issued on June 28, 2017, in order to spearhead and coordinate efforts to harmonize, integrate and streamline the regulatory processes and relevant forms in the development of nationally significant energy investments.