THE general direction of power investments in Mindanao are more skewed toward off-grid areas.

Romeo Montenegro, Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) director for investment promotions and public affairs said that a number of investors have signified interest to invest in these areas.

“With these projects directed to off-grid areas it will significantly improve the availability of electricity in the un-energized areas in the island, making electricity reliable and affordable especially to remote parts of Mindanao,” Montenegro said.

He said this is aligned with the Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi’s directive of fully electrifying the Philippines within President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.

Off-grid areas are locations that are not connected to the country’s main power grid.

Montenegro said that Mindanao, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Balut Island, Saranggani and Sultan Kudarat are areas which are not fully electrified and are presently powered independently by diesel generator sets.

Most off-grid areas only get eight to ten hours of electricity a day.

Montenegro said that for instance, in parts of Tawi-tawi, only Bongao is served 24 hours.

Also, in Sulu, only Jolo is served 24 hours, while the rest of the neighboring municipalities only get power for eight to 10 hours a day.

“These (off-grid power investments) are very small power projects that are very much viable if infused in the current energy mix of existing Small Power Utilities Group (Spug) facilities by National Power Corp. (NPC) in these areas,” Montenegro said, adding that it could bring down the cost of electricity.

He added that the best energy source to power up these off-grid areas are renewable energy (RE) such as solar, hydro and geothermal, among others.

“The viability in investment in power generation has now transitioned and that investors are now looking into RE projects for off-grid areas in the island,” Montenegro said.

“By using RE, they can be alternately used. For instance, they can use solar as energy source in the morning and diesel during nighttime. It will have a positive cost impact to consumers,” he added.

He explained that off-grid areas are the focus of power investors now because with the seeming excess that will be available and with large power projects by companies already coming online, only the off-grid areas remain to be viable for a possible micro-grid power projects.

When asked why these off-grid areas remained to be partially electrified, Montengero said that perception of peace and order and less effort by the government to assist the investors are some of the major concerns.

“But with the Minda-initiated One-Stop Shop Facilitation Monitoring Center (OSFMC), which is now replicated nationwide through the Energy Virtual One Shared System (Evoss), RE power investors are now assisted and accommodated well by fast-tracking its energy projects,” he said.