Renewable energy: A naturally brighter solution

By Jose Santino S. Bunachita |June 21,2018 - 10:06 PM

The 300-MW coal fired power plant of Therma Visayas Inc. in Toledo City is the only committed power project for Cebu that will go online this year.

Based on data from the Department of Energy (DOE) Visayas Field Office, the total production capacity of the Cebu Sub-Grid for both renewable and traditional power supplies, currently stands at 1,062.3 megawatts (MW).

Majority of Cebu’s power supply is still sourced from coal (775 MW), followed by diesel (236.6 MW), solar (45 MW), and Hydro (1.7 MW).

As of April 24, 2018, the demand peak of the Cebu sub-grid was at 957 MW, said Engr. Rey Maleza, OIC-head of the Energy Industry Management Division (EIMD) of DOE-Visayas.

This means that the supply was able to fulfill the power demands of the province.

For the entire Visayas Grid, the total available capacity was at 1,735.24 MW as of April 2018 with much of the supply coming from geothermal (42.44%) followed by coal (21.38%), solar (15.93%), and diesel (14.1%).

But under DOE’s Power Development Plan to 2040, it is projected that the Visayas region will need 9,180 MW of additional capacity by 2040 in order to cope with growing
demand.

“If there are no additional power plants, we will be experiencing a critical point, which we have started experiencing already,” warned Maleza.

“However, we have committed power plant projects in the pipeline,” he added.

DOE records show that there are close to 700 MW worth of “committed power projects” for the whole of Visayas.

These are projects which have secured funding and are in the process of construction; or those that are scheduled to go online, poised to provide additional power to the grid.

However, majority of the committed power projects which are coal (435 MW), biomass (178 MW), geothermal (50 MW), and hydro (31 MW) will be located in Negros Island.

Only one is scheduled to go online in Cebu within the year – a 300 MW coal-fired power plant in Barangay Bato, Toledo City: Therma Visayas Energy Project (TVEP) owned by Therma Visayas Inc. (TVI), a subsidiary of AboitizPower.

Indicative projects

Aside from committed power projects, DOE also lists a total of 3,393 MW of “indicative power projects” for the Visayas or those with investors planning to build but have yet to secure funds and necessary permits.

Source: DOE

Of the total indicative power projects, a bulk or 76 percent (2,568 MW) will be from renewable energy sources broken down into wind (1,268 MW), hydro (705 MW), solar (540 MW), geothermal (40 MW), and biomass (15 MW).

The rest will be from non-renewable sources like coal (600 MW), natural gas (138 MW), and crude oil (87 MW).

According to Maleza, investors pour money on power projects in Negros primarily because of the huge tracts of land available for use in the island.

The expanses of sugar cane plantations owned by a single person or family are considered by investors as ideal locations.

“Negros is conducive to solar because of sugar cane plantations. For example, there is only one owner for a 60-hectare property. In Cebu, there are so many owners of different smaller lots. This makes it harder for investors to negotiate and purchase the land,” Maleza explained.

Recently, DOE-Visayas issued a moratorium against additional solar power projects in Negros as the demand for power in the island was much lower compared to the energy supply that they are able to produce there.

Due to the lack of transmission infrastructure, it is also currently not possible for Negros to transmit their excess supply to neighboring provinces.

Meanwhile, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) is pursuing a transmission project that would connect Negros to other parts of the Visayas.

For Cebu, Maleza said there are no problems in transmission.

And if investors put up more solar power plants in the province, Cebu’s power demand, he said, can very much absorb the added supply that will be generated.

DOE-Visayas Director Saul Gonzales is calling on investors of solar power plants to look at areas in Central Visayas and Eastern Visayas as prospective locations.

Global trends

In a report, the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), an intergovernmental organization which supports countries in their transition to a future of sustainable energy, affirmed observations that electricity costs from renewable power generation continued to decrease.

According to Irena’s “Renewable Power Generation Costs for 2017” report, there has been a “remarkable” 73% drop in electricity costs from solar power projects since 2010.

Among the key cost reduction drivers noted by the agency were technology improvements, competitive procurement, and a large base of experienced, internationally active project developers.

“By 2020, all the renewable power generation technologies that are now in commercial use are expected to fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range,” the report said.

A separate Irena report also noted that more companies in 75 countries across the world, including the Philippines, are now getting their electricity from renewable energy sources.

Irena’s “Corporate Sourcing of Renewables” report added that corporate demand will continue to rise with the continued decline in the costs of renewables.

The report attributed the increased demand for renewables to companies seeking to reduce their electricity bills, and address sustainability concerns.

Other reasons why more companies are turning to renewables are social responsibility and reputation management; and the companies’ economic and financial objectives, the report said.

In 2017, companies consumed 465 million megawatt-hours of power from renewable sources; enough to power a country the size of France.

A repository of policy, technology, resource, and financial knowledge on renewable energy, Irena serves as the principal platform for international cooperation to ensure that stakeholders rapidly make the long-term switch to renewable energy.

In Cebu, the global trend towards sustainable energy shines brightly.

While non-renewable sources like coal far outweigh the current volume of renewable energy sources powering the island, the numerous “clean energy” projects in the pipeline for Visayas are paving the way for a greener, more responsible future in the country.

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