Monday, 29 June 2009

Philippines shows way in renewable energy

Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines - When it comes to promoting the use of renewable energy, the Philippines is one of the countries leading the way in Asia.

The Philippines, after all, passed the Renewable Energy Act in 2008—reportedly the first and most comprehensive in Asia—which is seen paving the way for the quick development of alternative energy sources, such as geothermal, wind, biomass, solar, hydro and ocean.

Believing that energy security and independence from costly oil imports are hinged on the development of renewable energy, the Department of Energy signed the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) just five months after the law was passed.

With the signing, the DOE expects to further boost investments in the sector and double power production from the sector to 9,000 megawatts (MW) by 2013.

“The incentives outlined within the Renewable Energy Law and its IRR are showing that the Philippines is truly open for business within this sector,” noted UK-based Global Green Power PLC Corp.

Global Green Power is one of the foreign companies investing heavily in the Philippine renewable energy sector.

Through its local subsidiaries, the company is infusing a total of P5.6 billion (about $40 million for each project) to put up three 15-MW biomass power plantsin Panay, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan.

These projects are the first to be endorsed by the DOE since the passing of the Renewable Energy Bill in December last year. All were registered by the Board of Investments as pioneer projects.

Recently, the company’s subsidiary, Global Biomass PLC Corp. (GBC), signed three biomass supply contracts that could generate a combined P27 billion in direct and indirect economic benefits over the 25-year contract.

“Each of our 15-MW biomass power plants delivers around 900 local jobs, purchases agricultural residues and waste from the local farming community, giving them additional income, and delivers clean, decentralized and renewable energy that does not rely on imported fossil fuels,” said Maribeth de Montaigne, Global Green Power director of Social Programs and Poverty Alleviation.

De Montaigne added that such “projects are exactly what the Philippines needs at this time of financial crisis, rampant poverty and energy destabilization.”

GBC signed supply contracts with Green Power Panay Philippines Inc., Green Power Nueva Ecija Philippines Inc. and Green Power Pangasinan Philippine Inc.—each of which are developing a 15-MW biomass power plant.

The biomass needed to fuel the plants will come from farm waste and other agricultural residues such as rice and corn husks, GBC explained.

Global Green plans to source some 400 tons of biomass a day, mostly from farmers. The company, however, is still working out a price scheme for the purchase of biomass from local communities.

The three power plants are expected to come on stream by 2011.

“It is very encouraging that the Philippine government, especially the Departments of Energy and Agriculture are reacting quickly and positively to support renewable energy projects that address climate change while helping our farming communities,” De Montaigne noted.

“We must all work together to deliver programs that bring renewable energy to the Philippines ... such projects have the potential to uplift lives while providing tangible, solid opportunities,” she added.

On top of spurring economic activities in the provinces they operate in, the new power plants of Global Green Power could provide the much needed additional electricity to avert any energy shortfall in the near-term, particularly in the Visayas.

Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes earlier appealed to the energy stakeholders “to move quickly in order to alleviate the power crisis that is now gripping the Island of Panay.”

The energy chief had also warned of possible one- to three-hour rotating brownouts every day beginning 2010, unless additional power plants come in next year.

Power supply in the Visayas grid remains tight, with the affected provinces suffering from dwindling power reserves and insufficient peak capacity since last year.

Government data also showed that Luzon would need an additional 150-MW capacity by 2010.

Part of that power requirement is expected to come from renewable energy.

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