Dennis F Fetalino | People’s Journal
Power plants are not plug-and-play devices.
They are not lego blocks which are bought and sold over the counter at any toy store and can be assembled in a jiffy as soon as you get home.
Generation plants take time to build, test, run, and maintain.
The technical or engineering works alone could entail months if not years to complete.
Environmental, safety, and health hazard-mitigation measures should also be put in place before they could be turned on.
Stakeholder consent also needs to be secured to ensure the support of host communities, indigenous groups, and other sectors which would be impacted by the project.
As if these were not enough, state regulatory powers are sometimes brought to bear on energy projects that are sorely needed by communities yearning for development.
One such restrictive hand of the State is judicial fiat.
In many occasions, courts have come in the way of key energy projects for reasons that are arbitrary, capricious, or whimsical in their reckoning of project proponents who have sunk in their precious capital, time, and energy into the undertaking.
And the worst part is that this is a recurring, serial, judicial mischief at the very least.
But “cost-escalating” project delays are no laughing matter to these developers and their financial supporters.
How long could this judicial foot dragging go on? How much more time must remote communities wait for development to reach them?
The “looming” power shortage in the country could be averted if not for the recent decision of the Supreme Court requiring all power supply agreements submitted by distribution utilities to the Energy Regulatory Commission to undergo a competitive selection bidding.
With this order, it would take longer for the much-needed power plants to see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. DUS are required to secure PSAs before they can start construction of power plants.
In Quezon province, hopes are still high though that new, modern and environment-friendly power plants will soon start construction with the election of a new governor, former 3rdDistrict representative Danilo Suarez.
Suarez, while being the Minority floor leader of Congress, has been urging the government to consider practical solutions to address the rising cost and power shortages in the country today. He also opposes foreign owners of power plants in the country by filing House Bill No. 5209, or “An Act Limiting the Ownership and Operation of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.
As new governor of Quezon province, Suarez has now the ‘influence’ and mandated to implement socio-economic development plans, including the construction of new power plants that are compliant with standards provided for by our laws, to address the looming power shortage, not only in Quezon, but on a national level.
Suarez was very vocal during his tenure as 3rddistrict representative of Quezon in pressing the NGCP, to expand the grid and to improve the country’s energy infrastructure. He has been advocating for this to provide sufficient electricity in areas where there is inadequate power supply.
The outspoken Governor-elect will have his hands full in managing the opposition coming from several local church leaders and non-government organizations associated with the left, and balancing the significant benefits that the construction of modern power plants in the province, particularly in Atimonan and Mauban, will bring to the residents of these municipalities.
An ultra-supercritical coal-fired power plant utilizing high-efficiency, low emission technology expected to provide 1,200 megawatt capacity in Atimonan, once cleared by ERC and after going through the CSP, will bring enormous benefits to residents of the town.
It will also help provide additional baseload to the Luzon grid badly needed to address the thinning power supply in the region.
Increasing power supply would decrease the cost of electricity to the benefit of the consuming public. The cost efficiency spreads across the board, covering ordinary Filipinos, small- to large-scale businesses, and the government. This benefit is undeniable.
Residents in Quezon agitated by left-leaning groups and environmentalists are opposing the construction of coal plants and prefer renewable energy. Suarez has been calling Filipinos to be more “realistic” with regards to the establishment of a renewable energy infrastructure in the country.
Now at the helm in spurring growth in Quezon, Suarez is in the right position to enlighten his constituents to have an open mind in understanding that the transition to an entirely renewable energy structure will take time. An acceptable interim is to allow construction and operation of power plants that produce cheap energy and utilize clean technology. This is a win-win situation as the country take steps to implement a 100-percent renewable energy system.
The country and Quezon province is closely watching how Suarez will initiate new development plans with long-lasting national and domestic benefits.
Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.
Pause and pray, people.