SAN CARLOS CITY – President Benigno Aquino III said Tuesday the inauguration of the P4.9-billion solar power plant in this northern Negros City is certainly a step towards the right direction for the province, and the country as a whole.
Aquino, who was joined by his sister Kris, led the inauguration and ceremonial switch-on of the 59-megawatt (MW) solar power facility in Barangay Punao.
The project started delivering power to the Visayas grid on March 9, days before the March 15 feed-in tariff (FIT) deadline imposed by the Department of Energy (DOE).
“It is yet another reason for us to be optimistic and confident about the future,” Aquino said in his speech, adding that while there is a current energy surplus in Visayas, “it is imperative for us to react and prepare for future economic growth.”
Aquino reported that during the course of his term, they have commissioned a total of 3,262 MW in installed capacity in 70 power plants. Of which, 38, or about 50 percent are renewables.
A total of 5,404 MW are also in the pipeline through 60 incoming committed projects, 42 of which are renewables, he added.
Renewable energy sources include solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, bioenergy, and ocean power.
Aquino added that for Visayas, the government was “able to increase the region’s dependable capacity by more than 900 MW, from around 1,300 MW in 2010 to 2, 228 MW at present. Thus, the percentage of renewables in our energy mix has remained relatively high, at 33.9 percent.
For solar power alone, the province currently has a generation capacity of 341.5 MW from five solar power firms, operating seven plants, the highest in the country.
Aside from the newly-inaugurated solar facility in San Carlos, Negros Occidental is also hosting Helios Solar Energy’s 132.5 MW farm in Cadiz City, the largest in Southeast Asia; Citicor Power’s 25 MW in Silay City; Negros Island Solar Power’s 48 MW and 32 MW farms in Manapla and La Carlota, respectively; and San Carlos Solar Energy’s 45 MW facility also in San Carlos City.
“It is such a welcome development to see that solar is becoming more prevalent and affordable, and our administration’s hope is that even more companies follow,” Aquino said.
“This hope is reflected in how we have helped pave the way for companies to invest here, in the form of competitive economic incentives,” he added.
The President cited that investors in renewable energy development receive a seven-year income tax holiday, 10-year duty free importation of renewable energy machinery, and FIT rates, among others.
Through such measures, Aquino said the government is confident that with the growing number of believers from the private sector, the country can truly achieve its goal of increasing the renewable energy-based capacity to 15,304 MW by 2030.
“I am certain that, as we welcome even more advances in renewables, we can minimize our reliance on fossil fuels, increase the share of renewables, all without jeopardizing the price structure,” Aquino noted.
Other officials at the inauguration rites were Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada, Negros Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., San Carlos City Mayor Gerardo Valmayor Jr. and Aboitiz Power executives Erramon Aboitiz and Antonio Moraza.
Aboitiz Power is one of the country’s largest producers of renewable energy which generates 1, 263 MW, or about 40 percent of its total net sellable capacity.
“This represents our commitment to support the government’s push for a balance of renewable and non-renewable power sources to address the country’s increasing energy demand,” said Aboitiz, the company’s chief executive officer.
The project, whose construction started in August last year, can help avoid 72,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
Aside from additional revenues, it has also provided jobs to more than 4, 000 workers throughout the construction phase, 80 percent of them are from the host city.