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Mayor Duterte in quandary over coal-fired power plant

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 October) — Mayor Sara Duterte hinted she might change her mind with regard to the proposal of a power firm to build a coal-fired power plant to avert possible power outages and shortfall.

Duterte said she is torn between protecting the environment and the possibility of power shortage in the city in the next three years if she continues to refuse investments in coal-fired power plants.

“The increase or decrease of our electric bills would depend largely on how near or far the power plant is,” Duterte said, echoing the anxieties of the business sector over the absence of new power investments in Southern Mindanao.

The mayor made the statement following the proposal of the Aboitiz Power Corporation to put up a 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant to avert the projected 484-megawatt shortfall in Mindanao in the next three years.

Aboitiz Power’s proposal received outright support from Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who challenged environment groups to present alternatives to the pressing power shortfall.

Mayor Duterte said power plants that could turn waste into energy might be a much better option but no one is investing in this project because it’s “quite expensive.”

“Since it is expensive, its cost will also be much higher,” she said.

She added that new capacities being proposed for this kind of projects are also “too small” to avert the impending power shortage.

“That’s why, I’m torn between protecting the environment and lowering down the electricity bills,” she said.

Exporters earlier pointed out that Southern Mindanao consumes the bulk of power in the Mindanao grid, but because of the absence of new power investments, they continue to rely on the power supply from the north.  They said this makes them vulnerable to power disruptions when problems occur in the transmission lines.

Earlier, the mayor was opposed to coal, saying that like mining, it will bring about more harmful effects on the environment in the long run.

Erramon Aboitiz, president and chief executive officer of Aboitiz Power, said that only a coal-fired plant, which is more affordable, can be built within three years to avert the impending power shortage.  He said that hydropower, for instance, may be environment-friendly but takes too long to construct, referring to the 42-megawatt run-of-river hydropower plant that Hedcor, another Aboitiz-owned company, operates in Santa Cruz, Davao del Sur.

Even the proposed nuclear-power plant earlier suggested by the business sector requires an economy of scale and is hence more expensive to put up.

“Based on what I read, you need economy of scale to put up a nuclear power plant. You need to put up a 1,000-megawatt capacity to make it viable,” said Aboitiz during the presentation of the proposed power plant in Davao City.

“But putting up a 1,000-megawatt power plant in Mindanao will practically flood us with power supply that we no longer need. It will drive prices down. So, the nuclear power, although environment-friendly, is out of the question,” he explained.

Vice mayor Duterte earlier dared environment groups opposed to the coal-fired power plant to come up with other more viable alternatives to the frequent power outages in Mindanao.

“If you’re opposed to it, give me a solution,” he told reporters. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)

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