SUWECO justifies long delay in delivery of two hydro projects

A CONSENSUS ON PROPOSED SOLUTIONS to the intermittent brownouts has been reached by the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) and the Sunwest Water & Electric Co. (SUWECO) during a meeting called by Congressman Hector Sanchez at the cooperative’s Marinawa headquarters last Oct. 13, 2021.

A top official of the Sunwest Water & Electricity Co. (SUWECO) last week blamed stringent government regulations for the delay in the construction and completion of its promised hydroelectric power plants in Caramoran and San Miguel.
Engr. Danilo Pilones, Vice President for Operations, told Congressman Hector Sanchez and the management of the First Catanduanes Electric Cooperative, Inc. (FICELCO) led by General Manager Raul Zafe that the company is just complying with the requirements of government agencies with respect to the construction of the Hitoma-2 and Capipian hydro power plants.
He reminded that SUWECO already initiated construction at Capipian as early as 2009 and cited problems with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
The company’s application for Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) has been approved, Pilones claimed, but the sites’ encroachment in so-called Strict Protection Zones of the Catanduanes Natural Forest Park requires special approval that is now pending before the DENR Secretary.
He bared that there is an ongoing negotiation with the environment department on a special agreement on restricted use in the protection zone.
“Once we are issued a permit, we will pursue the timeline for the construction of the two hydro power plants,” VP Pilones declared.
Under its original supply agreement with FICELCO, SUWECO was supposed to deliver the 1.575-megawatt Hitoma 2 plant in 2010 and the 2-mW Capipian plant in 2013 but this was amended later, with Capipian supposed to be delivered in 2018 and Hitoma 2 completed by 2022.
The SUWECO official’s explanation came during the Oct. 13, 2021 meeting called by Cong. Sanchez for power firms to address recent power outages.
FICELCO GM Zafe underscored that that the electricity supposed to be produced by the uncompleted hydro power plants is much cheaper than that generated by the diesel power plants installed by SUWECO as “back-up” power in place of the hydro plants.
It was disclosed during the meeting at the cooperative’s Marinawa headquarters that the Department of Energy (DOE) has advised FICELCO to reconsider procuring a baseload power plant, instead of “peaking” power plant for additional power supply requirements of Catanduanes.
DOE Director IV Mario Marasigan, officer-in-charge of the Electric Power Industry Management Bureau, said the recommendation is based on the “seasonality of existing hydro plants, high dependence and inappropriate utilization of high-speed diesel power plant as baseload power supply, and, uncertainty of SUWECO’s delivering the Capipian Hydro Power Plant and Hitoma 2 Hydro Power Plant.”
It likewise urged the cooperative to require SUWECO to provide a definite timeline on the delivery of the two power plants.
“If such non-delivery would still remain indefinite, kindly seek the assistance of the NEA and Renewable Energy Management Bureau of DOE in reviewing the possible violation and/or default of SUWECO and include the undelivered power supply in your future power supply requirement,” the DOE advised FICELCO

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