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Thursday, February 14, 2013
FIFTY-ONE percent of the power needs of Mindanao come from hydropower, or electricity produced by water movement.
The Washington-based Worldwatch Institute reported that the world's top five producers of hydropower are Canada, China, Brazil, the United States and the Russian Federation. Several countries, including Brazil and Norway, obtain almost all their electricity from this one source.
Mindanao's heavy dependence on hydropower makes the country's second largest island vulnerable to weather conditions. "This is the reason why during summer and El Niño phenomenon, Mindanao experiences power shortage," says Manuel M. Orig, the first vice president for Mindanao affairs of the Aboitiz Power Corporation.
Aside from hydropower, another energy source of Mindanao is geothermal. Two geothermal power plants are located in Mount Apo, the country's highest peak. A report from GMA News Online said the commercial operation of the Mount Apo geothermal project 3 will start in December 2014.
Geothermal power's contribution is second only to hydropower, which would contribute 6,767 megawatts (MW) - almost double from the current 3,367 MW. "We will have to drill one geothermal well every three years to solve our looming energy crisis," says Engr. Mario C. Marasigan of the Department of Energy.
The Philippines has been using geothermal energy to sustain its energy needs for over 40 years. Next to the United States, the Philippines has the second highest geothermal power capacity in the world today.
Although the global consumption and installed capacity of hydropower and geothermal technologies have increased steadily since 2003, both types of energy saw slower growth in 2011, according to new research conducted by the Worldwatch Institute.
Global installed capacity of hydropower reached 970 gigawatts (GW), only a 1.6 percent increase from the previous year, while geothermal cumulative capacity reached 11.2 GW, slowing to below 1 percent for the first time since 2002, writes report author Evan Musolino, a research associate with the institute's Climate and Energy Program.
Hydroelectricity accounted for almost 6 percent of primary energy consumption among members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). "On a regional basis, South America and Central America are most dependent on hydroelectricity relative to total energy use," Musolino said.
Despite the potential for inexpensive, low-emission electricity from hydropower, large projects can bring significant negative consequences. For instance, the damming of rivers for hydropower projects has led to the displacement of local populations and the adverse altering of downstream conditions.
"But hydropower continues to be one of the most cost-effective renewable energy generation sources," Musolino pointed out in his report. Typical costs are in the range of 2-13 U.S. cents per kilowatt-hour for existing grid-connected hydropower plants and 5-10 cents per kilowatt-hour for new plants. Micro-hydropower installations (0.1 kilowatt to 1 megawatt), which are typically used in rural communities not connected to the national grid, generate at 5-40 cents per kilowatt-hour.
On the other hand, Musolino said that geothermal resources are highly location-specific. "Many countries with strong hydropower potential, including much of Latin America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia, have equally impressive geothermal potential," he wrote. "These resources have been exploited for power generation for over a century, with significant capacity being developed since the mid-1900s."
The costs associated with geothermal power also closely mirror those of hydropower. Varying by geothermal technology, generation costs are in the range of 5.7-10.7 cents per kilowatt-hour. High capital costs, associated primarily with the cost of drilling geothermal wells and the long lead time for project development, continue to challenge project developers.
Meanwhile, blackouts will become a way of life in Mindanao if nothing is done soon. "While there are still small hydropower sites that are available for development, there are few, if any, large hydropower sites available for development like the Agus and Pulangui hydroelectric plants."
How huge is the power needs of Mindanao in the coming years? "The demand (for electricity) is increasing and yet the supply is decreasing," Orig claims. Currently, there is a shortfall between supply and demand for power.
From 2010 to 2014, it is projected that the shortfall between supply and demand of power in Mindanao will reach 484 megawatt (MW). "This is equivalent to cutting power supply to five major cities in Mindanao," Orig claims.
Orig is referring to Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, Iligan, and Zamboanga.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 14, 2013.