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Coal-focussed GBPC finally forays into renewables

Global Business Power Corporation's CEO Rolando Bacani fights to keep up with the Philippines' renewable race.

In a fight to keep up with the “bigger guys” of the Philippine power market, Global Business Power Corporation’s CEO Rolando T. Bacani shares the firm’s plans to start venturing into the renewables sector.

The Philippines under a new energy administration is under transition as coal-fired power generators are being pummeled with environment issues. Amidst the issues thrown at the sector, Bacani stands up for the industry as he and his team aims to educate the public on cleaner options and technology for coal-fired power.

Bacani joined GBPC in September 2015 and is responsible for the overall strategic and operational leadership of the company. Asian Power sat down with Bacani as he discussed company plans and targets.

How long have you been in the industry and how long have you been with GBPC? How did your previous positions help you be the leader that you are?

I’ve been in the industry for 42 years--30 years in NAPOCOR, 5 years in TRANSCO, 6 and a half years in KEPCO Philippines, and now 18 months in Global Business Power Corporation. My productive life has been in the power industry.

As the former general manager of the business development group of KEPCO Philippines, my responsibilities covered project prospecting, project technical assessment, market surveillance, environmental scanning, information gathering, and political sensing among others. I played a pivotal role in dealing with issues that affected KEPCO Philippine subsidiaries and in liaising with government officials and executives of private firms.

I am currently the president and CEO of GBPC. I learned that if you are in systems operations, basically you have to know power transmission, distribution, and generation. You have to be all around, like a jack of all trades and master of none. This is why when I joined GBPC, given that I have experience with power transmission in NAPOCOR, I was very thankful that this happened as I am given the chance to make my power industry experience come full-circle.

I have been known to be a troubleshooter when it comes to technical problems. I was one of the pioneers of systems operations in NAPOCOR. This is what I am really passionate about. With systems operations, you have a macro view of the power system and can immediately “see” the effect of your decisions.

You’ll know that sound decisions were made when stable, reliable, and reasonably priced supply of electricity were made available for the benefit of the consuming public. The power industry really excites me. In business, I think that building strong relationships is the core.

You have to make sure that relationship with stakeholders are great, if you have any, and even more so for your clients, your co-workers--it’s a matter of maintaining good relationships with people on all these segments.

What are your top priorities for GBPC?

Aside from the power plants that we’re about to put up, GBPC’s top priorities are operational excellence and safety implementation. For operational excellence, we engage the consultants to help us out in identifying those gaps in our operations and maintenance.

These gaps are those that stem from GBPC being relatively young, we have yet to make sure that procedures are strongly established and strictly followed. We have yet to streamline all processes and probe where flaws are, so that operations are smooth and well-coordinated. This is tied up to our vision that by 2020, we are the leading and most efficient energy provider in the country, we will lead in terms of policies. This is why we prioritise operational excellence at GBPC. 

Secondly, we are also prioritising safety. While we are always talking about safety in our policies and operations, we want to focus on stricter implementation most particularly among GBPC’s employees. We found out during our last project in the Panay Energy Development Corporation’s (PEDC) expansion to Unit 3, some of our contractors are disregarding safety rules and procedures. 

We then created a committee to look deeper into how we can make people more aware of the safety procedures and how to be more safety-conscious. We are coming up with several programs to make sure this happens. Among these programs is one wherein you’ll be given a “safety operations card” and you’ll be required to jot down safety issues you see around you. Lastly, we are prioritising integrated management and business continuity systems. GBPC is already ISO certified, and we eye on streamlining these and acquiring more accreditations.

What are the biggest challenges GBPC is currently facing?

There are many challenges facing GBP today, and these challenges are not unique to the company alone but to the industry in general. For one, the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) provision of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) presents many exciting developments for the industry. Under RCOA, the customers whose electricity consumption falls within a certain contestability are mandated to choose their own power supplier.

Right now it’s at 1 MW and is set to go lower as we progress along the timelines set by the Energy Regulatory Commission. Failure to find a supplier within the given deadline would entail premium rates. 

With RCOA, competition becomes stiffer, thereby driving innovation among industry players. To effectively manage competition, we enhance our operations and develop value-added services. We may be relatively small compared to other IPPs but we have an edge in providing power supply to Visayan islands as we have strong partnerships with those from the local distribution units.

On another note, climate change continues to be a pressing concern for all of us. As we support the growth of the country by trying to bridge the increasing demand for energy, we must also try to adhere to the highest operational standards to minimize our impact to the environment. The common connotation attached to coal is that it is always dirty.

What they do not yet know is that there are standards and limits which are required of coal-plant operators. In our case, we use technology such as the circulating fluidized bed (CFB) to curb emissions and we are proud to note that our operations have emissions way below the set limits of the government. We aim to make the public aware of this.

What is GBP’s biggest plan to date? What should the industry be excited about?

As one of Visayas’ leading independent power producers, we are very much excited to expand into Luzon. We are planning to put up a 2x335 MW coal-fired power facility, which will be our biggest upon completion. Based from our experience in our Panay operations, we have witnessed how critical energy can be in spurring growth in the regions, and we remain steadfast in supporting the government’s quest for inclusive growth.

We are also starting to venture out into more renewable energy projects. Our first project will most probably be located in Luzon and it’s a biomass energy project. It’s already running, actually, we just need to secure more permits from the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission to get FiT. We are also working on our other project in Negros. Other RE projects that were looking into are hydro and solar plants.

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