Third Toledo coal plant eyed to open by 2014

Posted on November 12, 2012

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A third coal plant will be built in Toledo City two years from now, bringing to three the number of operational coal plants there.

With recently appointed Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla in attendance, groundbreaking ceremonies were held yesterday morning at the coal plant site of the Global Business Power Corp. (GBPC).

The 82 MW coal plant will be built in the hinterland village of Daanglungsod, Toledo City located 50 kilometers southwest of Cebu City.

This early, news of the impending coal plant construction drew the ire of local ecology advocates.

Toledo City is part of the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape and as such, coal plants shouldn’t be allowed to operate there, said Philippine Earth Justice Center Inc. (PEJC) co-founder Gloria Estenzo-Ramos.

The plant sits on a 2.2-hectare land operated by Toledo Power Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of GBPC.

Petilla congratulated both the Toledo City government and GBPC for pushing through with the project which is projected to meet Cebu’s energy needs.

Petilla, the former Leyte governor who replaced Cebuano Rene Almendras as energy secretary, acknowledged the growing clamor for clean energy but said growing industrial demand must be met.

“You have to have the proper mix (to meet the growing demand for energy),” Petilla said.

GBPC chairman Francisco Sebastian said the company invested an additional P10.2 billion to replace Toledo Power’s existing coal facility.

Sebastian said the new Toledo Power Co. coal plant employs “clean technology” used in Cebu Energy’s 246 MW and Panay Energy’s 164 MW plant facilities.

He said the expansion will provide more than 500 job opportunities during construction and operation and generate additional revenues to Toledo City.

Global Business Power’ acquired Toledo Power in 2002. Toledo Power was initially built to power the Atlas mines in the 60’s until its closure in 1990.

The 2.2 hectare Toledo Power expansion project is expected to supply the electric power requirements of Carmen Copper Corp. starting December 26, 2014.

Toledo City Mayor Aurelio Espinosa said the coal plant construction is “an advance Christmas gift” to the city adding that the plant’s presence will make Toledo City “an economically livable community.”

Toledo Power also operates a 40 MW diesel fired power plant in barangay Carmen and a 66 MW coal plant in Daanlungsod.

“It’s the biggest investment in Toledo City, in Cebu and the Visayas region,” Sebastian said.

Global Power is one of the leading independent power generators in the Visayas region with coal and power plants in Cebu, Iloilo, Aklan and Oriental Mindoro producing 633 MW of power.

But Ramos reiterated that despite claims by proponents, coal is “never clean and never cheap” and is the “dirtiest source of greenhouse gases” responsible for the worsening climate change around the world.

Ramos questioned whether GBPC and the Toledo City government conducted consultations among the households to be affected by the plant.

“They have problems with coal ash disposal. Now they are spreading the coal ash contamination to every household and offices that use cement-laced with coal ash. Is this ethical?,” she said.

The Department of Health (DOH) issued a health advisory last July 27, 2010 citing studies that showed that toxic elements like arsenic, mercury can be found in coal dust and diluted in the downstream water.

Ramos also questioned why the Aquino administration is pursuing coal plant projects in Cebu despite an existing Renewable Energy Law.

“Have our officials forgotten that the Philippines ranks third as the most disaster prone country and the 10th most heavily impacted by climate change?,” she asked.

Last week, the environmental group Greenpeace asked Petilla, a former governor of Leyte which hosts the world’s second biggest geothermal renewable energy fields in the world, with an installed capacity of 1,900 megawatts, to immediately cancel all new coal plant projects and support renewable energy projects.

“Greenpeace hopes that once he has seen the real impacts, Secretary Jericho Petilla, will end the strong pro-coal energy bias of the DOE, and fully enforce the Renewable Energy Law,” said Anna Abad, Greenpeace Southeast Asia climate and energy campaigner. /Tweeny M. Malinao and Marian Z. Codilla

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