Meralco to bid alone for AES’ coal plant in Zambales

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Meralco to bid alone for AES’ coal plant in Zambales
Meralco won't have a partner when it bids for a controlling stake in the facility. It'll likely compete with San Miguel and Aboitiz Power.

MANILA, Philippines – The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) is pushing through with its bid for a controlling stake in a 600-megawatt (MW) coal power plant in Masinloc, Zambales owned by AES Corporation.

US electricity giant AES Corporation is selling its entire 51% interest in the Masinloc power facility, which it bought from the Philippine government for $930 million in 2008.

Meralco president Oscar Reyes said the utility firm will bid alone for the project.

“We are on our own in this process. It’s Meralco only. The process requires parties to bid on their own or with partner,” he said.

The sale of the two 300-MW units in the Masinloc facility is expected to happen before the year ends.

In 2014, AES sold its 41% stake in the Masinloc project to Thailand‘s Electricity Generating PCL for $453 million. The remaining 8% stake is owned by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Asked what makes the AES facility attractive to Meralco, Reyes replied: “It has subcritical plants in operation while the third unit is being developed. They already have an asset.”

The utility firm is also engaged in power generation through its unit Meralco PowerGen Corporation (MGen). (READ: Singson leaves Light Rail Manila, moves to Meralco)

Possible opponents

Meralco will likely be competing with San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and Aboitiz Power Corporation for AES’ power assets.

“Yes, we are interested,” SMC president Ramon Ang earlier replied when asked about the Masinloc coal power plant.

Like Meralco, Ang said SMC prefers not to partner with other firms. “Just us,” he said.

Meanwhile, Aboitiz Power president Antonio Moraza earlier said there are as much as 20 foreign and local firms interested to join the auction. 

“There are about 20, I think. We are interested. As long as [there are] power projects in the Philippines that [are] for sale, we will look. The interest is very wide, foreign, local, wide. I understand there [are] more than 15,” Moraza said.

Other than AES’ power assets, Meralco had told state-firm Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) that it is interested to take part in the country’s 1st liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.

“We indicated to PNOC our interest [in] any development in LNG,” Reyes had said.

PNOC was tasked by the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop an integrated LNG hub with storage, liquefaction, regasification, and distribution facilities, as well as a reserve initial power plant capacity of 200 MW.

“We are looking at it. That’s clearly an option. We have expressed willingness to be part of either pipeline gas or LNG,” said Reyes.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the government is aiming to turn the Philippines into a hub for LNG, amid the expected depletion of natural gas from the Malampaya gas field in Palawan in less than a decade. Currently, around 3,500 MW of power plant capacity is dependent on the country’s sole natural gas source.

LNG is natural gas that has been converted into a liquid state for easier storage and transportation. Upon reaching its destination, LNG is regasified so it can be distributed through pipelines as natural gas. –

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