US power firm to invest up to $2-B in Philippines

Posted at 06/04/2014 5:38 PM | Updated as of 06/04/2014 5:38 PM

MANILA - American power firm AES Corp said on Wednesday it is planning to invest up to $2 billion to expand its coal-fired power plant in the northwestern Philippines and put up power storage facilities to help stabilize supply in the energy-deficient central provinces.

AES will spend $1.2 billion to double the capacity of its 600-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Masinloc in Zambales province, with the project expected to be finished in three years.

"Masinloc is very, very advanced. We've got the environmental permits and we are now in the final commercial aspects," Andres Gluski, AES president and chief executive, told reporters on the sidelines at the visit to Manila by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.

"We are willing to expand more in the Philippines. We want to expand more," Gluski said.

Manila is Pritzker's second stop in a three-country tour of Southeast Asia aimed at deepening economic ties and trade in the region as part of the U.S. rebalance to Asia. She visited Vietnam prior to the Philippines and will end her tour in Myanmar.

"Power needs have to match the growth that is occurring, so that creates need and opportunity," Pritzker said in a media briefing, noting that the Philippines' 7.2 percent growth in 2013 was one of the fastest in Asia.

To support an economic growth forecast to stay above 6 percent annually, the Philippines must add power capacity of at least 2,500 megawatts in the four years to 2017, according to the government's power development plan.

AES is also in talks to install energy storage facilities via lithium ion batteries in the central Visayas region, where there is a shortage in power supply, Gluski said.

"(They) work particularly well on islands, so we think they are very well adapted to the Philippines," he said of the storage facility, adding the project could require investments of $300 million or more.

"It is something that can be done in a relatively short time, 12 to 18 months," he said.

AES has invested $1 billion in rehabilitating a 630-megawatt thermal power plant it acquired in 2008. It has moved its regional headquarters to Manila from Singapore last year following a decision to increase its investments in the country.

Apart from power, chief executives and representatives of U.S. firms travelling with Pritzker are studying investments in infrastructure projects, health care, telecommunications, and information technology, Pritzker said.