Norwegian Ambassador to the Philippines Knut Solem and Department of Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras lead the inaugural ceremony on 26 October 2011 to formally reopen the 105-megawatt (MW) Ambuklao Hydroelectric Power Plant in Benguet.
The rehabilitation of Ambuklao, including the expansion of its generation capacity from the original 75MW to 105MW, was undertaken by SN Aboitiz Power-Benguet, Inc. (SNAP-Benguet), a joint venture between SN Power of Norway, a renewable energy company investing in emerging markets, and Aboitiz Power, a major producer of Cleanergy in the Philippines.
Ambuklao’s new 35MW Unit 3 turbine began commercial operation on June 1, 2011 followed by Units 1 and 2. SNAP-Benguet also owns the adjacent 100MW Binga Hydroelectric Plant, which was built in 1960, or four years after Ambuklao. It is now undergoing refurbishment to increase its generation capacity to 120MW. The rehabilitation and refurbishment have a combined budget of USD 258million. Ambuklao and were acquired as a package in 2007 through a bidding process for USD325 million under the power sector privatization program.
The major earthquake in 1990 caused siltation and technical problems that affected the operations of Ambuklao, leading to its decommissioning in 1999 until 2008, when SNAP-Benguet came in with the mission of providing Filipinos with clean and renewable energy.
The Ambuklao hydroelectric facility runs along the upper portion of the Agno River, Luzon’s third largest river next to Cagayan River and Pampanga River. Considered one of the landmark rehabilitation projects in the Philippine power industry, the refurbishment of the Ambuklao facility required extensive work.
SNAP-Benguet applied innovative plugging solutions that were only used previously by the deep-sea oil and gas industry and installed new turbines, main inlet valves, generators, transformers, control system, circuit breakers and hydraulic structures. Although SNAP-Benguet’s rehabilitation work on Ambuklao was substantial, the project rolled out without any major environmental and safety incident.
Ambuklao and Binga power plants are the country’s first hydro facilities registered under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This feature is attributed to SNAP-Benguet’s massive rehabilitation and replacement of all equipment and machinery. Through its CDM accreditation, Ambuklao and Binga will earn 180,000 carbon emission reduction credits each year, enough to offset the carbon dioxide emissions of about 80,000 cars.
Shared Values for a Shared Future
CSR had always been part of the way SNAP-Benguet operates, establishing a CSR program geared towards community development and stakeholders’ engagement.
With the inauguration of the newly rehabilitated and upgraded 105 MW Ambuklao Hydroelectric Power Plant, SNAP-Benguet renewed its commitment to create shared values with its host communities in Bokod, Benguet through its CSR.
In its annual host community forum last September, SNAP-Benguet presented the various development programs implemented with its host communities since the start of its rehabilitation efforts in Benguet in 2008. SNAP-Benguet partnered with its host communities to implement development projects in education and information technology, livelihood and eco-tourism, health, public infrastructure, environmental protection, governance and support to indigenous peoples’ concerns.
With the re-operation of the Ambuklao plant, Bokod will again enjoy host community benefits derived from the generation of electricity which it did not receive when the plant laid dormant for more than a decade. This is in addition to the voluntary development programs implemented by the company through partnership agreements with its host communities.
SNAP-Benguet has aligned both the developmental objectives of its stakeholders and the indigenous people’s organizations with the company’s sustainable development agenda. Projects that create shared values both for community development and plant operational sustainability will be pursued for watershed protection and management, alternative livelihood and enterprise development, enhancement of development management capabilities, and access to health care and sanitation. SNAP-Benguet and its host communities will also explore how to complement each other in achieving the development objectives under the Millennium Development Goals relevant to its host communities.
Another major program is the creation of an indigenous peoples’ heritage site in Sitio Sombrero, Ambuklao. The company continues to support this initiative in establishing a site management and use plan. It will also support the development of the identified IP site in Ambuklao for eco-tourism, livelihood and cultural heritage purposes, benefitting Ambuklao’s present and future generations.
The partnerships created by SNAP-Benguet with its host communities during its rehabilitation of Ambuklao Hydroelectric Power Plant are now paving the way for creating shared values and a better shared future in this part of Benguet.
SN Power and its affiliate, SN Aboitiz Power, are bonafide members of the Philippines-Norway Business Council (PNBC).