By Myrna M. Velasco | Manila Bulletin Business
The Energy Investment Coordinating Council (EICC) has approved the P52-billion Visayas-Mindanao Interconnection Project (VMIP) of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) as the first major power investment securing certification as “energy project of national significance.”
This was announced to the media by Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, who raised hopes that this long-aspired for link-up of power grids will finally be concretized as targeted in 2020-2021.
The EICC, being the approving body for the issuance of certificate of energy projects of national significance (CEPNS) is headed by the Department of Energy (DOE) and has memberships from all relevant government agencies involved in the permitting and licensing of energy projects.
“We already approved the VisMin interconnection project of NGCP. We already issued its certificate as energy project of national significance,” the energy chief told reporters.
The VMIP is the country’s realization of its long-term aspiration of having a nationally connected power grid that will then enable the sharing of electricity supply and reserves across Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao power grids.
Cusi similarly indicated to media that the next one in their CEPNS evaluation is the application of the power generation arm of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to have its $3.0-billion Atimonan coal-fired power project to be of “national significance” based on the dictum of Executive Order 30 that was issued by President Rodrigo Duterte June last year.
However, the energy chief sounded off the department’s condition, with him emphasizing that they would only issue the CEPNS for the 1,200-megawatt Atimonan power project if Meralco carries out Swiss challenge on previously signed power supply agreement (PSA) that is also currently pending for approval by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
“We also have Atimonan in our line-up of approval. The only reason why I am not signing the certificate of Atimonan is because of our requirement for them to undergo Swiss challenge,” Cusi said.
He further stressed “I don’t like to issue the certification, because it might be misconstrued as my agreement to the PSA, that’s what I’m trying to explain.”
Cusi emphasized that the EICC would not be able to issue the certification “unless they can start construction… unless the PSA or the bilateral agreement is cleared.”
The proposed Atimonan facility is a shovel-ready project, but its fate moving into construction phase still lies heavily on the ERC’s approval of its power supply deal.
Meralco executives previously indicated that the energy department’s call for Swiss challenge must just be prospectively applied to future projects but not to PSAs already sanctioned by previous rules to have been exempted from such auction process.