By John Rizle L. Saligumba
DAVAO CITY – The campaign to increase renewable energy (RE) production will need “more aggressiveness” on the part of government “or else non-RE sources will just naturally come in”, the government socio-economic planning unit for Mindanao has said.
But several factors are working against encouraging more and bigger RE energy productions in Mindanao. These are mainly on sourcing funds to finance bigger projects, and the long permitting process, an officer of a provincial electric cooperative said.
In a presentation of studies on biomass and hydro-electric power plants, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said that the current power mix “is 60-40 wherein 60 percent is RE generated from the Agus-Pulangi hydro-electric complex, geothermal, and several small hydro, biomass, and solar plants while the other 40 percent is from fossil fuels such as diesel-powered and coal-fired power plants”.
The most viable RE source for Mindanao is still hydro-power “as eight of the major rivers on the country are in Mindanao”.
MinDA said biomass is also a viable energy resource “as Mindanao is an agricultural area with (abundant) agricultural waste.”
“These RE sources also have available baseline data as there are already such plants operating in Mindanao,” it added.
MinDA identified the 15 provinces with higher biomass potential production: Bukidnon, South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Davao City and Sarangani.
In a press conference, Mr. Bien Tadeo of the First Bukidnon Electric Cooperative (Fibeco), said that biomass energy facilities in various stages of construction can contribute 263.9 megawatts (MW) of electricity to Mindanao’s energy requirement. The Fibeco has invested in biomass energy production,
Tadeo claims that their study on biomass indicates that 20 percent of the “theoretical potential” energy that can be produced with biomass in Mindanao “can reach 795 MW” (excluding the 263.9 MW capacity of plants already under construction).
Fibeco’s biomass plants would need 110,000 metric tons of biomass waste per year in order to operate at full capacity. The Department of Energy Chief Science Research Specialist Andresito F. Ulgado has assured that Fibeco’s research followed the department’s “rule of thumb to ensure that there will be enough supply for the plant to run over the years.”
Funding however, is one of the drawbacks in pushing for more RE ventures, Tadeo said. He shared that negotiations with commercial and government banks are still going on and the electric cooperative must be able to secure the needed funds by the first semester of this year, as it is anticipating to start commercial operation in 2015.
Fibeco will construct three biomass facilities in Bukidnon, with each facility to cost P1.1 billion and will take 18 months to build.
Montenegro said that often, it has to be the investors who should find sources of funds “as government is not allowed to enter into contracts as stipulated in the Epira [Electric Power Industry Reform Act]“. Montenegro said that the Land Bank of the Philippines is one of the partners of Fibeco.
But Roderico Bioco, chairperson of the Bukidnon Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that certain provisions in the Epira Law would allow “monopoly” of the country’s energy resources if not revised.
On the issue of complying with documentary requirements, Montenegro said that it would take seven years for RE applications. He described it as a “circuitous processes”. He said a One-Stop Shop Processing and Facilitation Center (OSPFC) at MinDA and an Internet website to be opened soon, could help to solve the problem.
Montenegro hope to cut short by half the processing time.
“The One-Stop Shop will involve 13 government agencies including the local government units,” he said. Montenegro said each agency has its mandated requirement but he added that they will try to ask them to keep the time at a minimum.
Montenegro mentioned an experience by one company which said that the LGU approval took so long “that the investor lost interest”. He refused to divulge the name of the investor or the location of the project.
Montenegro added that it may be viable for LGUs to help RE investors with the needed financing and smooth permitting process. For the LGUs, the project will serve as its own embedded power to ensure ready supply of electricity.
Meanwhile, Engr. Anastacio Cubos, Jr., head of the Assessment Team for Hydro Sources of RE company Energias Renovables which conducted a study on the viability of hydro-electric plants in Mindanao, said they have already identified 12 sites where 20 MW plants maybe constructed.
Cubos clarified that these plants are “run-off-the-river” hydro-electric plants which do not require a dam for the impounding of water. Cubos said the constructions of dams are “unwelcome” to communities.
“These are not like the Sibulan (Davao City) hydro plants [which] are small and dependent on the river systems’ height and flow,” said Cubos.
Cubos said these small hydro plants are also different because these have “impounding-like” mechanism such as the Sibulan hydro plant which is used in “peaking purposes.” (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)