Bukidnon biz leader says sugar centrals could be tapped to help address power deficit

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 April) At least four sugar centrals in Mindanao, including two in Bukidnon, can supply up to 90 megawatts of power to the Mindanao grid, Roderico Bioco, president of the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc, said.

He identified the sugar centrals as Busco Sugar Milling Co, Inc. and Crystal Sugar Milling Co. Inc. in Bukidnon and the  Davao Sugar Central Company, Inc. and Cotabato Sugar Central Co., Inc.

But the additional source is untapped because the government, he said, is “not creative enough” to encourage more producers of renewable energy.

“It’s power that’s already available and renewable because it is from the sugar central’s biomass power generation,” said Bioco. He described the sugar centrals as power co-generators

Busco Sugar Milling Co, Inc; Crystal Sugar Milling Co. Inc; Davao Sugar Central Company, Inc; and Cotabato Sugar Central Co., Inc.

Bioco added that power from the sugar centrals is base load energy.

Bioco said the lack of stable power supply adversely affects the economy as investors forego projects because of power interruptions.

Bioco explained that based on computations from consultations with the sugar industry players,  they are willing to supply power to the grid if the Energy Regulatory Commission approves a higher rate from the current P6.63 per kilowatt hour.

“(The sugar centrals) should have a capacity to produce power at a rate much lower than diesel,” he added. The Bukidnon Second Electric Cooperative (Buseco) through a five-megawatt power supply agreement buys power from the Aboitiz-owned Therma Marine Inc, which operates two power barges.

Then Buseco general manager Edgardo Masongsong told MindaNews in March last year that they bought from TMI at P13.90 per kilowatt-hour, which is almost double its current rate of P7.3533 per KWH.

Bioco said the four plants produce power  for their own needs and can actually produce more and connect to the grid but don’t because there are not enough incentives.

He noted that the prevailing rate approved by the ERC for one sugar central supplying an electric cooperative “is too low to invite their full participation” from other sugar centrals.

“We are calling on the DOE to compel the ERC to liberalize the rates,” he added.

Bioco said he hopes government will consider the mater because additional capacity from biomass is still cheaper than diesel.

“Why go for diesel when we have biomass,” he asked.

Bioco said only two of the 28 sugar mills in the country are connected to the grid.

The sugar mills are willing to participate only during milling season.  But on off-milling season, he said, they would rather shut down due to lack of incentives.

Milling season for sugar spans about seven months from November to May.

Romeo Montenegro, investment promotions and public affairs director of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) welcomed the call of the chamber to increase rates for biomass energy capacity.

“It will encourage more participation (to the grid), especially that it’s already an existing asset,” he added.

He vowed to endorse it to the DOE’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau. He said they are interested in additional capacity from renewable energy sources as it would help cut the power deficit. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)