By Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has received an approval to bid out 1,800 megawatts (MW) of greenfield baseload capacity for 2024-2025 but should conduct the competitive selection process (CSP) as soon as possible.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has approved the 1,800-MW CSP of Meralco, according to Energy assistant secretary Redentor Delola.

Meanwhile, a clarificatory letter to Meralco’s request is awaiting the signature of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, according to Energy Undersecretary Emmanuel Juaneza.

Earlier, Meralco first vice president and regulatory management head Jose Ronald Valles said the company submitted a clarificatory letter to the DOE. “We’re asking if there’s a possibility to move the basis forecast from current 2020 to 2022. We assume prices have normalized, providing a level playing field for generators. We’re just waiting for DOE to come back to us for that clarificatory letter,” he said.

In the DOE’s reply, the agency urged Meralco to find other ways to conduct the CSP amid the lockdown imposed in the country due to the  COVID-19 pandemic.

“They requested if they can postpone it to a later date because of the difficulty in doing the CSP process given the situation that we are facing now. What we are trying to tell them, there are mediums they can utilize to be able to proceed with the procurement,” Delola said.

The country’s power distributor was asking DOE’s approval to conduct the CSP sometime in October.

“What we don’t want to happen is that the deferment of the schedule may delay the delivery of the power supply contract,” Delola said. “So what we are trying to say is that they should explore additional medium or other medium to proceed, so we can still be able to hit the target of delivery of supply.”

Earlier, Meralco asked for the DOE’s clearance to defer its CSP for 1,200-MW greenfield capacity needed for 2024  due to volatile oil prices and COVID-19 pandemic.

The request was made after “taking into account actual demand for 2019 and acquisition of demand-side and supply-side resources to cost- effectively meet needs of customers.”

Meralco president and CEO Ray Espinosa earlier said the coronavirus pandemic has prevented the power distributor from proceeding with the bidding.

The pandemic has caused too much price volatility in the international oil market, with prices ending lower for eight straight weeks out of nine earlier this year due to plunging global demand for fuel.

Espinosa also said the lockdown prevented Meralco from holding face-to-face meetings with the bidders for conducting and receiving voluminous documents that will accompany each bid.

Instead, Meralco said it would invite bidders to participate in the bidding for greenfield baseload capacity of 1,800 MW (net), for commercial operations in 2024-2025.

The 1,800 MW capacity would be taken from the discontinued 1,200 MW greenfield capacity, plus a 600 MW portion from the 1,500 MW baseload supply supposedly scheduled for CSP this year.

Meralco first conducted the CSP for the 1,200-MW greenfield capacity in September last year, but was declared a failed bidding after only Atimonan One Energy Inc., a unit of Meralco Powergen Corp. (MGen), submitted an offer.

After the failed bidding, the DOE directed Meralco to open the second round of its CSP to all power plants—whether old or new—to truly allow competition and get the least cost of power for consumers.