Philippines Ramps Up Renewable Energy

Philippines Ramps Up Renewable Energy

The Bangui Wind Farm, located in the northern Philippines, hosts 20 wind turbines with a total capacity of 33 megawatts. (IPS Photo/Kara Santos)

The Bangui Wind Farm, located in the northern Philippines, hosts 20 wind turbines with a total capacity of 33 megawatts. (IPS Photo/Kara Santos)

Manila. As the Philippines grapples with frequent power outages and a growing demand for energy, government agencies and private groups say the answer to the country’s power needs may lie in alternative sources.

Currently, three million households lack access to electricity in this country of 94 million people. Some provinces only have electricity for several hours each day, while countless households on the country’s more remote islands still rely on diesel-powered generators.

Energy rates in the country remain among the highest in Asia, placing a heavy burden on the 26 percent of the population that lives below the poverty line.

According to a 2011 survey by the Japanese External Trade Organisation (Jetro), electric rates in Manila were pegged at $0.23 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), higher even than Tokyo and Singapore, which both stand at $0.20 per kWh.

A growing demand for energy has accompanied the Philippines’ economic growth, which hit 6.6 percent in 2012, according to the World Bank. Supply can barely cope with the increasing demand, which is projected to grow by four percent annually from 2011 to 2015.

In light of this, the country’s Department of Energy is ramping up renewable energy initiatives.

In a recent forum on enhancing energy security in Manila, director of the DOE’s renewable energy management bureau, Mario Marasigan, said the department has two solar-powered projects in the pipeline, as well as “three wind farms and several hydropower plants, in a bid to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.”

He says the Philippines currently uses between 38 and 39 percent renewable energy in its primary energy mix. DOE figures on gross power generation in the Philippines show that geothermal and hydropower plants each account for 14 percent of renewable power.

Other renewable sources such as wind, solar and biomass are still either underrepresented or nonexistent, and therefore offer the largest potential.

“The DOE has approved three new wind projects to proceed with commercial operations including Alternergy’s 67.5-megwatt (MW) facility in Pililla [in the eastern province of Rizal], the Energy Development Corp.’s 87-MW wind farm in [the northern region of] IIocos Norte and Trans Asia’s wind farm in Guimaras [a western island province in the Visayas region],” said Marasigan.

So far, the Bangui Wind Farm located on the foreshore of Bangui Bay in Ilocos Norte is the only commercial wind farm in the Philippines. Managed by the North Wind Power Development Corporation, it hosts 20 wind turbines with a total rated capacity of 33 MW.

Solar power also remains largely untapped despite its huge potential. The Philippines is still lagging behind in terms of policy implementation and deployment for solar, said to be the most environment-friendly and promising energy source.