MANILA Electric Company (Meralco) is willing to undertake the competitive selection process (CSP) in order to allow the construction of the Atimonan coal-fired power plant to start.

“If we want to pursue Atimonan, we have to go through competitive selection process. Once things become more clear as to the CSP, then we would obviously act as fast as we can,” newly appointed Meralco President and Chief Executive Officer Ray C. Espinosa said in a briefing after the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Pasig Tuesday.

The Supreme Court earlier this month ruled that all power supply agreements (PSA) submitted by distribution utilities to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on or after June 30, 2015 must undergo CSP.

CSP requires contracts between power generation companies and distribution utilities to be subjected to price challengers, a process that is aimed at lowering electricity cost.

Mr. Espinosa said that the company will respect the SC’s decision even as it will delay the construction of the power plant.

“We will heed the direction as well as follow the competitive selection process and we would build as quickly as we can in coordination with and the approval of the DoE (Department of Energy),” he added.

Meralco currently has PSAs with two of its subsidiaries, including Meralco Powergen Corp. (MGen) which is building a power plant under Atimonan One Energy, Inc. The PSA for Atimonan was filed in 2016.

The Atimonan project consists of two ultra supercritical coal-fired power plants with a capacity of 600 megawatts each. It was originally expected to be completed by 2021, but has since faced several regulatory issues. The company now looks to complete the project by the fourth quarter of 2025.

The company said the project will cost about P135 billion, but noted late last year that this has increased by about P15 billion due to the delays.

Aside from Atimonan, Meralco is also building other coal-fired power plants, including the 455-MW facility in Mauban, Quezon by subsidiary San Buenaventura Power Ltd. Co., which is set to be completed in the middle of 2019.

Its third such project is being constructed by unit Redondo Peninsula Energy, Inc., with two units carrying 300 MW each using the circulating fluidized bed technology.

Mr. Espinosa said the company is also continuing to look for projects that will help improve power sources.

“As part of our drive to ensure that the consumers within our franchise area will have stable and reliable power, we are actively looking for power projects where we through MGen can invest in,” Mr. Espinosa said.

Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT, Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Arra B. Francia