It has been said that a crisis tests the resilience and true core values of people, companies, and countries.
Many of us believe that the COVID-19 pandemic the whole world has been battling with since last year is the worst crisis to ever test how much we can heal and recover.
But there’s actually a bigger, more catastrophic crisis that keeps getting worse each year and leaves no part of the Earth, including all of us, unaffected and that’s climate change. It is the greatest crisis of our time and unless there are immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, limiting global warming within 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius will be beyond reach, leaving our future generations with no livable planet.
The findings according to the sixth in a series of periodic reports released by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last August revealed the most daunting, alarming, and irreversible consequences of climate change. It also established that human activities have unequivocally warmed the oceans, land, and atmosphere.
Can mankind still do something to save this planet that it destroyed over the years?
“While we can no longer undo the environmental mistakes that humanity has made in the past, it is up to all of us to do something to prevent them from happening again—to be a part of the solution to the greatest crisis of our time,” said Richard B. Tantoco, President and COO of renewable energy leader, Energy Development Corporation (EDC) in his recent talk at a landmark Zoominar organized by the Ecumenical Initiative Forum, a gathering of faith-based organizations against climate change guided by the landmark Laudato Si encyclical of Pope Francis.
First Gen-owned Energy Development Corporation has not been spared from the damaging effects of climate change. In 2013, its biggest geothermal facility in Leyte, which is also one of the largest in the world, was badly hit by super typhoon Yolanda.
The company and the rest of the Lopez group to which it belongs to knew that they had to take an immediate and pivotal climate action because their business and the rest of the country would always be vulnerable to our worsening climate.
For this reason, its Chairman and CEO Federico R. Lopez has declared that the whole conglomerate will never invest in coal.
EDC, as the country’s 100% pure renewable energy company, is at the heart of this commitment and the Lopez group’s goal to help decarbonize our country.
One of the things that bring EDC pride as it fulfills this goal is having its 2nd largest and one of its oldest geothermal sites in Negros Oriental, a province that has managed to stay green after all these years. This is largely due to the good governance and commitment to environmental preservation of its leaders, including incumbent governor Roel R. Degamo and Mayor Edgar Y. Teves of Valencia, where the company’s Southern Negros Geothermal Project (SNGP) has been generating clean, renewable power for over 37 years.
Negros Oriental was one of the first to ban the construction of coal-fired power plants in 2018 through its Executive Order 9. Moreover, the province through Governor Degamo was also the first to declare March 05, which happens to be the date when EDC was created 45 years ago, as Renewable Energy Day in 2019 through Executive Order 22-18. Those two local government declarations should bring true pride to every Negrense.
The province of Negros Oriental is blessed to be located in the country’s renewable energy (RE) hub, with geothermal energy accounting for over 25.1% or 955 megawatts (MW) of the Visayas region’s 1,667MW total installed RE capacity. This is equivalent to 43.8% of the region’s 3,809MW total installed capacity as of 2019, according to the Department of Energy’s 2019 power situation report.
Over 220 MW of it comes from SNGP while the rest comes from the Leyte Geothermal Project that EDC also owns.
Being regenerative amid the pandemic
Not even the COVID-19 pandemic deterred EDC from fulfilling its mission to forge collaborative pathways for a decarbonized and regenerative future, especially in its areas of operation, including Negros Island.
This mission goes beyond sustainability that merely seeks to do less harm and demands EDC to look at its business from a wider lens than just profitability. All need to benefit from the positive impact of its decisions and actions.
The company takes its mission as a renewable energy provider seriously and goes beyond sustainability by investing in programs that enhance the environment and empower partner communities, thereby fostering regenerative development.
EDC has been assisting the provincial governments on both sides of Negros Island in their continuing fight against the deadly coronavirus disease.
In 2020, it donated equipment worth P11 million, including two state-of-the-art Real-Time Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT–PCR) machines, helped the province in establishing its own molecular testing laboratory, lent container vans that were converted into quarantine facilities or sleeping quarters; and provided food packs and medical supplies to communities and frontliners, among others.
It likewise donated an RNA extractor to Negros Occidental’s molecular laboratory in Teresita L. Jalandoni Provincial Hospital on top of over P6million-worth of aid to its partner communities in Bago City and Murcia, to the Diocese of Bacolod City, to various local government units, and its customers.
“We strive to ensure that life and progress will go on for our communities, with or without this invisible enemy,” said Norreen G. Bautista, head of EDC’s CSR department in Negros Island.
This year, EDC teamed up once again with National Bookstore Foundation, Inc. and distributed school supplies to over 6,000 students in close to 20 public elementary schools in Barangay Mailum, Bago City and Barangay Minoyan, Murcia in Negros Occidental as well as in Valencia, Negros Oriental. Apart from giving school supplies, EDC gave an additional 10 reams of bond paper to each school from its MakiPAPEL employee donation drive to further help the students and teachers with their modular learning materials for distance learning.
On top of these, the company has donated P5.6 Million worth of additional support to Negros Oriental in the form of RT-PCR Detection and Extraction Test Kits, consumables, and Universal Transport Mediums (UTMs).
EDC has also partnered with the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NOCCI) and the Department of Information and Communications Technology in establishing e-communities in host LGUs. Last October, EDC and its partners have finally switched on its first free wireless internet connection project for Barangay Puhagan in Valencia, Negros Oriental, making it the first off-grid barangay in the country.
“Having good internet access in far-flung mountainous areas is important in helping residents stay connected with their loved ones and friends. It is also necessary for students to cope with the challenges of distance learning, and for barangay officials to be able to conduct virtual meetings with EDC, counterparts in the local government, and even with regulatory agencies,” Bautista emphasized.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry governor for Central Visayas, Edward Du, who served as president of the NOCCI, lauded this initiative of Energy Development Corporation and expressed hope that it can be replicated in other LGUs.
Negros Island’s solution to climate change
Even as it continues to elevate its partner communities and LGUs, Energy Development Corporation remains committed to helping Negros stay as a green island through the uninterrupted supply of clean power that it supplies from geothermal energy.
Geothermal is the Holy Grail among renewable energy (RE) sources because of its inherent ability to provide a stable and reliable source of baseload, or what EDC refers to as Geo 24/7. Our country needs this reliable, stable source of clean, renewable power.
While other provinces and even other countries have yet to take concrete actions toward creating a positive impact on our planet, being powered by Geo 24/7 from its homegrown geothermal facility and being a green island also with the help of other RE sources like solar and biomass make Negros a key contributor to the country’s climate change efforts.
EDC’s over 1,480MW total installed capacity accounts for 20 percent of the country’s total installed RE capacity. Its 1,200MW geothermal portfolio comprises 62 percent of the country’s total installed geothermal capacity and has put the Philippines on the map as the 3rd largest geothermal producer in the world.