By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

MERALCO PowerGen Corp. (MGen) is studying new technology for its possible entry into biomass energy development to help address the country’s garbage problem through a waste-to-energy project, its president said.

“I think there might be a way of addressing [the garbage problem],” MGen President and Chief Executive Officer Rogelio L. Singson said in a recent chance interview. “I’m looking at new technology sa biomass because we have a lot of water hyacinth.”

He said the free-floating aquatic plant had been his “headache” when he was secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways under the previous administration.

Lahat nu’ng flooding sa (All the flooding in) Mindanao was caused by water hyacinth,” he said about the perennial plant that is known to clog waterways, trapping garbage and causing flooding where they thrive.

“And that’s organic. Ba’t nagtatanim ka pa ng (Why would you still plant) Napier grass,” he said, about another perennial plant that is grown to provide feedstock for biomass facilities.

He said there has to be a way to collect water hyacinth as feedstock for a biomass facility, which converts agricultural waste to electricity.

Mr. Singson said the company is looking at areas in Luzon for the biomass facility.

“But our second target would be microgrids,” he said, referring to energy systems that are independent from the main transmission grid, or the country’s network of transmission lines, towers and substations.

He said MGen was considering off-grid island provinces and municipalities that need energy development for their own use as the target location for its microgrid projects.

MGen is a unit of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), the country’s largest electricity seller.

Meralco’s board of directors recently approved the request of MGen’s unit MGEN Renewable Energy, Inc. (MGreen) for a P424.2-million equity funding for its solar projects under development with a combined capacity of 210-megawatt peak (MWp) and a total estimated project cost of P10.01 billion.

MGreen earlier announced its plan to invest in 1,000 MW of renewable energy projects over the next five to seven years.

Besides advancing renewable energy prospects, MGen is also focused on utilizing high efficiency, low emission (HELE) technology for its baseload power plants.

It is the proponent of San Buenaventura Power Ltd. Co., which is pioneering the country’s first supercritical coal-fired power plant in Mauban, Quezon. The 455-MW plant is under construction and is scheduled for commercial operations in late 2019.

MGen is also planning to build an ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant in Quezon province under wholly owned subsidiary Atimonan One Energy, Inc. The plant will have two units, each with a capacity of 600 MW.

MGen also plans to develop a two-unit coal power plant, each with a capacity of 300 MW in Subic, Zambales.

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 a majority stake in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.