ITOGON, Benguet — With the July 10 turnover of the power generation facilities of the Binga and Ambuklao hydroelectric complex, winning bidder SN Aboitiz Power (SNAP) has set into motion its plans for the plant rehabilitation.
SNAP ‘s bid of US$325 million won for the joint venture control over the government asset offered for private management. SNAP Benguet will rehabilitate the 75MW Ambuklao plant and make it operational to 65MW. Ambuklao has ceased power generation since 2000.
For Binga, the plan is to change the four turbines to upgrade efficiency from 100MW to 130MW, according to Corporate Social Responsibility Manager Rodolfo Azanza Jr. “One new turbine each summer will increase Binga’s output gradually in four years,” he said.
Ambuklao’s inlet has been submerged in heavy silt behind the dam that SNAP plans to build a new inlet, abandoning the idea of dredging to rehabilitate the 50-year old complex.
“We will live with the siltation problem,” Azanza told the press recently. He said the company would try to slow down siltation by investing in the reforestation of the watershed, and control soil erosion to lengthen the lifespan of the dam.
SNAP is a joint venture between the Norwegian SN Power and Aboitiz. Statkraft, a government power agency and Norfund, an official development aid arm make up SN Power. Aboitiz is a leading group of companies that is into banking, food processing, transport and communication, besides power ventures.
SNAP also controls Magat hydroelectric plant since 2007.
“We are into hydroelectric power because it is the most environment friendly source of electricity,” Azanza said. He added the company would earn extra dollars for CSR projects from the carbon credits the company would earn for not using pollutants like gasoline, coal and other fossil fuels in generating electricity, as embodied in the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism.
A carbon credit may cost at a high of US$15 per metric ton of unused carbon-emitting fossil fuel like coal and petroleum. It is a credit system to encourage the capture of carbon from the atmosphere, reducing pollution that contribute to global warming.
Corporate ventures in industrialized nations buy carbon credits to make up for the carbon these have released into the environment.
Among activities that earn carbon credits, according to Azanza, are reforestation projects, the use of alternative fuels, solid waste management that harnesses methane in decomposing garbage and the like.
An independent company, Carbon Finance Solutions (CaFis) will determine the feasible carbon credits that could be generated from the Ambuklao-Binga operations.
The turned over properties include the power plant, the employees quarters and the offices. The dam, the reservoir and the forested area remain government properties in the public domain.
The sale of the Ambuklao-Binga properties is in line with the government’s efforts to privatize the energy sector, which along with other social services that have already been passed on to private control, have been met with protests by consumer groups nationwide.
Besides power, water facilities and many government hospitals have earlier been placed under corporate control. In the Cordillera, the Benguet General Hosital in La Trinidad has become an economic enterprise, while the Baguio General Hospital now charges fees for certain services. # Lyn V. Ramo