Philippines has been kind – its people, and thankfully its weather. Despite a forecast of thunderstorms, barely a shower descended all week.
Even the taxi driver that took me to a meeting in central Manila said that the country gets two weeks of sunshine. That doesn’t bode quite so well for solar power, but perhaps it is a clear indication why fossil fuelled power is still top of the list for the country’s new capacity plans.
The Power and Electricity Week was organised by IBC Asia Ltd, and invited me to chair the Fossil Fuel Power Generation session on Day 1 of the short conference.
Fighting the jetlag, I chaired a five hour session on coal-fired power and presented an overview of HELE (high efficiency, low emissions) technology and the current status of CCS with coal as an (almost) closing presentation on the first day.
Before my talk, the rest of the session was broad and certainly optimistic about the use of HELE coal, at least as far as the Philippines is concerned.
The country is home to 100 million people, a third of the population live at or below the poverty line and a huge percentage live on just 1 dollar a day. Electricity is not a luxury, but a necessity. It cannot come at any price though, so affordability and reliability are considered the top priorities, even in a post-COP21 world. The key message I took from each speaker in my session were as follows:
Mr Winifredo Pangalinan of the power company Palm Concepcion felt passionately about the CFBC (circulating fluidised bed combustion) plant they have built in Iloilo, and how the plant has struck a balance between environment, corporate social responsibility (CSR), and delivering baseload electricity to the local grid in the group of islands called Visayas, in Central Philippines.
Derek Parkin representing CLP (China Power and Light of Hong Kong), provided a much needed reality check. The message was One shoe does not fit all feet, a message the Clean Coal Centre often tries to convey. The Philippines has a unique geography due to the 7000 islands, although most of the population and most of the energy demand resides in the Northern regions of Luzon. Countrywide, they face their own challenges, and coal is part of helping the country develop its economy. CLP will develop all forms of power; coal is part of the mix that includes renewables and gas.
Jason Gavina from RP Energy discussed the merits of CSR and how a community can be transformed with simple grass roots engagement and dialogue between power projects and the local people. There’s no reason why a coal plant project should not be successful on financial returns alone.
Bonifacio Banzon of the Bank of Philippines talked in detail of the procedures needed to ensure the success of an infrastructure project like a coal plant. However, he warned of a glut in power supply in the Philippines and that investment may well peter out in coming years if the growth in power demand didn’t materialise. The banks in the Philippines however are awash with funds also, and are keen to lend, so the country faces a positive dilemma either way.
Marciel Ocampo talked through the possibility of transforming the country with its natural resources, not just from coal, but, in the long term, biomass supplies from the immense agricultural industry. There is an opportunity to create value from the agricultural waste by cofiring it in coal-fired power stations, especially mine-mouth lignite stations.
Finally, there was a discussion on the merits of the limitations of adopting supercritical technology in small power units. The lack of market demand doesn’t appear to stimulate any of the major equipment manufacturers to develop small scale HELE plants, instead the small unit plant may only deploy subcritical steam conditions under these circumstances.
The heavy rains held off, while the news back home was less good, with flooding in the UK. I guess it just reminds me solar power in the UK may also face similar challenges, even in the summer.