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By Gemma Q. Casas

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, June 19) - Korea Electric Power Corp. is interested in taking over Saipan’s main power plant and will send one of its top officials to the island this month, Governor Benigno R. Fitial told reporters on Friday. But this information had not been confirmed with KEPCO as of press time last night. KEPCO is government-operated and is the only company engaged in the transmission and distribution of electricity in South Korea.

During his weeklong trip in South Korea, Fitial said he met with KEPCO officials to discuss his administration’s plan to privatize Saipan’s main source of electricity. "I also met with KEPCO and the head of its outside investment subsidiary will be coming here at the end of the month to meet with the lt. governor and (the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.). They are interested in taking over the power plant," said the governor.

KEPCO is publicly listed on the Seoul and New York stock exchanges and has a capitalization of US$3.35 billion. According to its Web site, KEPCO operates the Malaya Thermal Power Plant and Ilijin Power Plant, which are both in the Philippines. Ilijan is a gas-turbine combined cycle plant using natural gas available in the Philippines. It was chosen as an excellent power plant in 2003 by Power, a U.S. magazine.

KEPCO has also aligned with power firms in China and has been commissioned by the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization to build two 1,000 megawatts nuclear power generating units in the Kumho region of North Korea.

Fitial said the Northern Marianas cannot cope with the skyrocketing prices of fuel, and should explore alternative energy sources to meet the islands’ demand for electricity. "The administration is looking very seriously at alternative energy sources. We cannot continue to depend on fuel because we know for a fact that it’s a never-ending trend. It will continue to increase," he said.

He added, "Our mission is privatization because that would reduce the cost of running this government. We don’t have money."

June 20, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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