by Lenie Lectura | Business Mirror

 

The Department of Energy (DOE) wants the Philippines to overtake Indonesia and reclaim its pervious title as the world’s second-largest geothermal producer.

“Let’s go for it and regain our previous global standing as one of the top countries in geothermal development,” Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said over the weekend.

After many years of placing second in the world ranking, the Philippines now ranks third after Indonesia. The United States occupies the top post. Cusi wants to push the development of geothermal power among the country’s renewable resources to also help attain energy security and boost Republic Act 9513, also known as the Renewable Energy (RE) Act of 2008.

In a meeting with key officials of the Department of Energy (DOE) last June 24, Cusi directed his team to prepare a formal directive that would contain initiatives and guidelines on how to promote geothermal energy development and increase its utilization, as said resource is indigenous to the country.

“I would like to issue an order to really look deeply and comprehensively into how we can develop geothermal. I have been really thinking about it, assessing how we are addressing RE,” Cusi told the officials.

In promoting RE, Cusi said it is best for the country to focus on the resources that are abundant available, and extend all the necessary support to encourage its development through innovative policies and strategies.

He cited Vietnam as an example, where the country focused on developing the strength of its hydro resources. “[Vietnam is] very strong on hydro and that’s what they are developing. They are giving priority to their hydro.” Cusi said geothermal power plants may be expensive to develop and may take a longer time to build, but it would be able to generate the kind of power that will help sustain the energy security of the Philippines in the long term.

To date, the Philippines continues to have the highest RE generation mix within the Southeast Asian region. In 2018, RE accounted for about 33.2 percent of the country’s total primary energy supply. The figure is already 10 percent ahead of the regional target set forth in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Plan of Action on Energy Cooperation, which seeks to increase the RE component in the Asean total primary energy mix to 23 percent by the year 2025.

The National Geothermal Association of the Philippines (NGAP), for its part, said Cusi’s directive is “definitely a step in the right direction that will help our country become more energy independent.”

The group recently wrote Cusi to seek support in promoting and pursuing geothermal exploration and development in the country, which currently provides 11 percent of the Philippines’ power production.

Numerous underdeveloped geothermal energy sources have been identified, but the high risk and capital-intensive nature of exploring and developing these areas along with the lack of a guaranteed rate under the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) system make it more challenging for private developers to pursue them, NGAP said.

Risk sharing between developers and the DOE, especially during the very costly exploration stage, is needed to encourage geothermal development. NGAP proposed to tap the Malampaya Funds to provide financial support in the form of a loan with lower interest rates or a grant.