During the inauguration on Wednesday, 29 July 2020 of the Punta Catalina Thermoelectrical Central, the 752 MW coal-fired power plant was described as the most important infrastructure built over the two terms of the Medina government (2012-2020). The consortium made up by Odebrecht-Technimont-Estrella built the power plant that has twin plants of 376 MW each.
Economist Jaime Aristy Escuder, its general manager for the past three years, has been on several talk shows to defend the power plant and highlight the contributions it has already made and will be making to the country.
Critics point to corruption in the tender and contracting process and irregularities in the construction. Aristy Escuder says: “Sooner or later, people will recognize the contributions of Punta Catalina to the country.” He made the remark during an interview with Rumbo de la Tarde. He describes Punta Catalina as “the core of the Dominican electricity system.”
Aristy Escuder says the power plant was built to eliminate electricity cartels in power generation in the country and is already meeting this objective. He says it creates the conditions for competition among power generator companies. He claims the Punta Catalina operation has stimulated private generation companies to convert to natural gas, with long term savings for the country.
“In the electricity sector, Punta Catalina creates the competition to regulate the market,” he stresses. He points to how the spot market price has declined from US$0.14 in May 2019 to US$0.04 in May 2020 and US$0.05-US$0.06 in June-July. The better prices mean savings of US$450 million a year for the government. In the Dominican Republic, the government is the owner of the largest share of power utility companies (EdeEste, EdeNorte, EdeSur).
Indeed, he explains that when wind, solar and several thermal plants reduced their operations due to the passing of Tropical Storm Isaias, Punta Catalina delivered up to 39% of the national electricity demand. He said Punta Catalina has been supplying a stable 30% of the national power grid (SENI).
He reports that Punta Catalina transferred US$105 million in earnings to the central government from January to July 2020. He expects revenues of the power plant to be US$500 million a year, and gross earnings to be US$250 million a year (before interest payments, depreciation and taxes).
He asserts the government should not sell the power plant for less than its assessed market value of US$2.6 million. He points out this is more than the US$2.45 billion company records show has been invested in the power plant construction. He says monthly audits have been carried out during the three years he has been in charge of the power plant’s construction.
He suggests the government could sell part of the power plant, but should never sell below the US$2.6 billion market value assessment.
Aristy Escuder highlights the power plant facility has one of the most modern ports in the country, with a 1,600-meter long pier, prepared to receive the coal directly from the ships. The coal is transported in closed ducts, in an automated way. He says the port can serve mining operations in the area. He believes the area will become an industrial center that could take advantage of the port.
With a storage capacity of 200,000 tons of coal, the Punta Catalina Thermoelectric Plant can operate at full capacity for more than 30 days without resupply.
Aristy Escuder says the power plant was built to the highest standards for coal-fired power plants. He defends the use of coal. He argues that Japan is replacing its nuclear energy with coal-fired power plants. He points out that the power plant has air emissions equipment installed. Environmentalists say that fly ash is deposited outdoors, with potential hazards to farms and public health.
3 August 2020