Environmental concerns were raised at a recent meeting between the Consolidated Commission on Utilities and the Guam Power Authority over the new power plant project.

Approval of the proposed agreement with Korea Electric Power Corp., or KEPCO, was on the CCU meeting agenda on Thursday night, but the decision was delayed as commissioners continue to comb through one of the most important contracts the CCU has reviewed.

If approved by the CCU, and later by the Public Utilities Commission, the agreement will see the construction and operation of a new combined-cycle power plant capable of burning both ultra-low-sulfur diesel and liquefied natural gas. It will have a total capacity of 198 megawatts.

Testimony: ‘I feel that we are going in the wrong direction’

Before reviewing the contract, the CCU heard from the public, beginning with Joni Kerr, a science teacher at Guam Community College and an adviser for the GCC ecoWarriors. Kerr pointed to the findings within the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“I feel that we are going in the wrong direction with building a new fossil fuel plant. I would encourage us to take a closer look with renewable energy,” she said.

According to GPA, the new plant works better with solar-power equipment than GPA’s current generators, and that’s why it’s needed to facilitate more renewable energy projects on Guam. “This new plant will allow us to put more renewable energy. This new plant will burn less fuel than the current plant,” CCU Commissioner Simon Sanchez said, in response. “Right now, solar energy with battery storage is not cost-competitive.”

Commissioner: GPA balancing green energy and cost to ratepayers

A recent GPA presentation indicates a new power plant would cost $600 million. The new plant, through a combination of fuel efficiency and other GPA cost-cutting measures, is anticipated to save ratepayers money. The savings are in comparison to the cost of using current generation facilities. Converting the current Cabras power plants to meet emissions standards would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, according to GPA estimates.

“And that retrofit would not result in any rate decreases to the public now,” CCU Commissioner Michael Limtiaco said.

The utility is working to become more environmentally friendly while also weighing the impact to ratepayers, Sanchez added later. There were no renewable energy bids submitted for the new power plant, he said.

No one bid on renewable energy, such as solar, Sanchez said, “because they couldn’t meet the reliability criteria, because the sun goes down at night and they need batteries and batteries are expensive.

"If you were to try to duplicate what this plant can produce in energy, the cost would be much higher if you tried to do it with 100% renewable," Sanchez said.

KEPCO VP charged over faked safety certificates for nuclear reactor parts

Micronesia Climate Change Alliance founder Michelle Voacolo also asked commissioners if they were at all concerned about negative news regarding KEPCO, which has faced charges of corruption in the past. The former vice president of KEPCO was among 100 officials and suppliers charged with corruption over faked safety certificates for nuclear reactor parts in 2013 on the heels of the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the Voice of America has reported.

“We're always going to be concerned. However, we have a contract that we’re going to be getting into, and the contract is very straightforward and there’s a lot of penalties if they don’t perform," CCU Chairman Joey Duenas said. “They have to put up all the money. They bear all the risk and if they don’t perform; there’s huge penalties for them.”