Conal exec junks renewable energy sources as solution to power deficit

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 November)— Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are not practical in Mindanao to plug the supply shortfall expected to hit the island in the next few years, an official of a firm engaged in power generation said.

Joseph C. Nocos, vice president of Conal Holdings Corp., issued the statement following the campaigning here and in nearby Maasim, Sarangani of the environment group Greenpeace against the company’s planned 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant.

“Renewable energy is not the solution to the power needs in Mindanao. Wind and solar sources are not reliable and the power generated by it won’t come cheap,” Nocos said last week here.

By 2016, he projected that Mindanao would have a supply deficit of 450 MW on a conservative 3-percent annual demand growth scenario.

The Department of Energy has pegged the demand growth at 4.3 percent yearly, thus the deficit will happen a bit earlier in 2011 or 2012 if the agency is correct, Nocos said.

Mindanao has an installed hydropower capacity of over 900 MW – the Agus River hydro power plant complex that produces over 700 megawatts and the Pulangi hydropower plant (255 MW).

Together with the 105-MW geothermal plant in Mt. Apo, these renewable energy sources make up for close to 60 percent of the island’s 1,820-MW installed capacity.

Available capacity in the island is, however, now down to 1,320 MW.

Citing their own studies, Nocos said in a separate statement that alternative energy sources enough to energize a 200-MW power plant are not available in Mindanao.

“Mindanao is not within the wind zone that can produce energy on a 24/7 sustained bases.  Solar power is likewise only available for a limited number of hours,” he explained.

He added that deploying these types of power plants will drive electricity bills beyond the reach of ordinary households.

These types of plants generate electricity only 20-25 percent of the time, thereby driving up the cost of capital recovery four to five times, he said.

The result is wind power at P20/kWh and solar power at P25/kWh, he said.

Power rates in this city are currently less than P7/ kWh for residential, commercial and industrial users.

Nocos also said that because wind and solar are only available 20-25 percent of the time, they need to be supplemented by diesel power generation, which will further drive up the cost of electricity.

He said that the potential of hydropower in Mindanao is now already limited to small and dispersed capacities.

Last weekend, Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior docked in this city and proceeded to Maasim town to campaign against the proposed coal-fired power plant of Alcantara-led Conal Holdings.

Amalie Conchelle H. Obusan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia climate and energy campaigner, said that burning coal causes the most harmful damage on earth, health and environment.

Nocos said the company will employ the latest technology to minimize the pollution that will be generated by the project.

He said that Conal Holdings was unfazed by Greenpeace’s action in the locality, adding they are keen on starting the project in the first quarter of 2011, identifying Toyota Tsusho Corp. as one of their possible investors. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)