Luzon energy supply at risk

ROTATING brownouts similar to Visayas and Mindanao might be common scenario if the needed power plants to augment growing power demands in Luzon are not built by 2015.

This came as the Department of Energy revealed it is having a hard time convincing local governments and communities to host and endorse the development of power plants even if these are renewable sources of energy.

Department of Energy-Luzon Director Efren Balaoing said local governments only react when they experience rotating blackouts but lack the foresight to at least endorse energy potentials and help investors develop power plants in their area.

Another pressing problem raised by the DoE official is the difficulty of these power plants in attaining social acceptability among communities such as the ones in the Cordillera region when a wind farm in between Sagada and Besao, Mountain Province was opposed by the local community.

The Philippines has a total demand for power by 11,400 megawatts by 2030 with the bulk of the unprecedented demand coming from Luzon as it is a major player in the 4.7 percent growth of the Gross Domestic Product.

The Luzon grid has a projected demand for power by as much as 8,100 megawatts until 2030 but he said the 343 power contracts awarded by the DoE only has an accumulated capacity of 5,600 megawatts.

Visayas grid, which is already connected to the Luzon grid, has a demand of 1,600 megawatts while Mindanao has a demand projected at 1,700 by 2030.

He emphasized the immediate need by 2015 as power plants take at least three years before a power plant is commissioned and fully operational.

While the Visayas and Luzon grids are interconnected, he said the Luzon grid cannot rely on the Visayas grid to augment its unparalleled demand for power citing the central Philippines’ growing problems on addressing the needs of consumers.

However, the DOE official is optimistic local governments and investors now see the immediate need for additional sources of power after a growing acceptance for renewable power has been observed in Luzon.

The DOE Luzon director stressed not everything seems grim on the power outlook of the region. Power plants are in the pipeline and are ready to be commissioned in the next few years barring any delays in development and construction, he reported.

He said a 600 megawatt power plant by GN Power Ltd. was recently commissioned, a big help in augmenting the needs of the Luzon Grid and being transmitted to distribution utilities by the National Grid Corporation. Other geothermal plants are also in the pipeline in Laguna.

In the Cordillera region, among the greatest help are the 42 contracts recently awarded by the DOE to harness the potential of the region’s major rivers for at least 600 megawatts of power while some six geothermal power contracts in Mountain Province and Kalinga are also able to promise some 360 megawatts of power.

Wind power is also seen as another potential being developed in Burgos and Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte, Cagayan province and in Pililia, Rizal. Other renewable resources being tapped are bio-mass plants in Isabela and Central Luzon where animal manure producing methane is turned into energy.

But he said more has to be done by local governments to encourage investors stressing the current awarded contracts are not enough to cover the needs until 2030.

He encouraged the use of solar power as an immediate solution once investors are welcomed by local governments although these cost more than hydroelectric plants.

He said the DOE continues to advocate renewable energy sources in the country as rising prices of fossil fuels have a domino effect on power rates in the country.
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