Industry, biz leaders in Zambo ask gov’t to set tariff for renewable energy

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/03 April) – Business and industrial leaders here are asking the government to speed up the crafting of the feed-in-tariff (FIT) for renewable energy, which has been delayed for three years already.

The business sector said the implementation of FIT will jumpstart the construction of renewable energy facilities that will help address the rotating brownouts plaguing Mindanao.

Roberto G. Valerio, executive director of the Industrial Group of Zamboanga Inc. said the installation of a solar power plant in 18 months as promised did not happen because the Department of Energy came out with the rules on FIT “very late.”

“They did not finalize as early as they should have which delayed the hearing,” he said.

The implementation of FIT will determine the cost of renewable energy that will be charged to the consumers. Under the proposal, the DOE’s initial rates for solar power is P17.95 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for ocean technology, P6.15 per kWh for run-of-river hydropower and P10.37 per kWh for wind power.

Mindanao is currently suffering from daily power outages reportedly due to inadequate supply from power generating firms. Majority of the island’s power distribution firms have resorted to buying either diesel or coal-fed power supply from the independent power producers.

One of the casualties of the long-delayed implementation of FIT is the Belgium-based Enfinity Asia Pacific Limited, which has earlier expressed an intention to build a 20-megawatt (MW) solar power in this city.

Valerio said the government did not properly do its job until the reported power crisis began.

“This is inefficiency of the national government at its finest. The whole of 2011 they did not do anything. They were already been warned since 2010.”

In an earlier interview, Gino Van Neer, Enfinity chief executive for Asia Pacific, said that the Zamboanga solar power plant is just one of the three biggest plantations that will be set up in the country. The other two will be in Davao City and Tarlac province.

Dennis C. Ibarra, Enfinity representative, earlier said that their company is infusing P3-billion worth of capital for the 20-MW solar power in this city.

He said the fund is part of the $1-billion fresh investments that their company is putting in the country.

He said there are already over $300 million worth of agreements and submitted service contracts in the country for the next five years.

Valerio said Mindanao is best suitable for solar power particularly during the dry spell since the island is largely dependent on hydropower supply.

Jaime J. A. Rivera, Zambaonga Peninsula regional governor for the Chamber of Commerce, said the time is ripe for Mindanao to use its potential for renewable energy such as the ocean or wave power, which he claimed is very suitable in the Basilan Strait and Surigao Strait, “two of only eight areas in the Philippines with commercially viable sources for ocean or wave energy.”

“Not only will this solve our long-term power needs, it will also transform the Philippines into a net power exporter,” he said, pointing out any excess of this power supply could be sold to neighboring countries.

Greenpeace Philippines has earlier warned that the delay in the implementation of FIT is allowing coal plants to fill in the gaps in energy demand, effectively giving “no more room for new renewable energy projects for the next few decades and giving the next generation no choice but coal dependence and leaving the country’s economy further at the mercy of volatile fossil fuel prices.”

“We are concerned that the ongoing debates regarding the feed-in tariff rates for RE in the Philippines is being taken advantage of by the coal industry to insert new polluting power plants. By delaying the implementation of renewable energy projects, industries, communities and local government units will have no choice but to turn to fossil fuels. The government should make sure that the renewable energy law is implemented and fast-track RE proposals that are simply waiting in the wings to ensure 50% renewable energy by 2020 in the country,” said Francis Dela Cruz, climate and energy campaigner of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“The ERC (Energy Regulatory Commission) should make sure that we are not swept up by this haggling over centavos per kilowatt hour for renewable energy, at the expense of billions that will be needed to address health and environmental issues because of fossil fuels, especially coal,” Dela Cruz added.

The Alcantara-led Conal Holdings Corp. has proposed to build a 100-MW coal-fired power plant in the city but there have been opposition over environmental concerns.

The company has yet to secure an Environmental Clearance Certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for its project. (Darwin Wally Wee/MindaNews)