Co-ops push for more renewable energy sources in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/21 April) – Mindanao should tap more renewable energy sources like hydropower plants, a group of cooperatives said amid the increasing number of coal-fired power plants in the island.

In a position paper emailed on Thursday, the One-Mindanao Energy Cooperatives (One-MIECOOP) said renewable energy should remain as the long-term dominant source of power in Mindanao.

It said the remaining state-owned Agus and Pulangui hydropower complexes could still serve as the major sources of clean power if rehabilitated, maintained, and further developed to continue being the backbone of the energy source of Mindanao.

The Agus and Pulangui hydropower complexes have an installed capacity of 982.1 megawatts and comprise seven plants – Agus 1, Agus 2, Agus 4, Agus 5 Agus 6, Agus 7, and Pulangui 4.

In a press release Friday, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi revealed the country’s vision to achieve 20,000 MW of renewable energy by 2040 to sustain economic gains and continuously elevate the quality of life in the country.

To achieve the target for renewable sources, Cusi cited the need to identify and analyze key challenges to guide the stakeholders in terms of policies, regulatory and institutional framework.

“The DOE is committed to provide a level of playing field among RE developers to assure the country of its indigenous and sustainable energy for the consuming public,” he said during Friday’s launch of Renewables Readiness Assessment (RRA) for the country at the Energy Center at Bonifacio Global City.

He said the RRA will involve research, consultations and other measures that will lead to a comprehensive and detailed analyses of the country’s renewable energy profile in order to recommend measures to deal with the pertinent issues facing the industry.

A 2016 report by the Department of Energy showed that non-renewable energy accounts for over half of Mindanao’s power mix.

The reversal was noted between late 2015 and early 2016, or the period when three major coal-fired power plants with a combined installed capacity of 700 MW were connected to the grid, according to Romeo Montenegro, director for Investment Promotion, International Relations and Public Affairs of Mindanao Development Authority.

Montenegro was referring to the AboitizPower Corp.’s 300-MW Therma South Inc. in Brgy. Binugao, Toril in Davao City, the 300-MW coal-plant of the San Miguel Consolidated Power Corporation in Malita, Davao Occidental, and first 100-MW unit of the Alcantara-led Sarangani Energy Corp.

Of Mindanao’s total installed capacity of 3,162 MW, non-renewable energy contributes 1,898 MW (1,070 MW coal and 828 MW diesel), which accounts for 60 percent of the energy mix, while renewable sources account for about 40 percent or 1,264-MW (108 geo-thermal, 1,061-MW hydro, 36-MW biomass, and 59-MW solar).

One-MIECOOP earlier signified interest to bid for Agus and Pulangui to “democratize the power industry.”

Edgardo T. Silagan, 1MIECOOP chairperson, said he believes that the cooperatives can pool funds so they can bid alongside giant power companies to buy out the hydropower complexes despite being in the infancy stage.

He said 1MIECOOP has currently 35 members with combined assets of P20 billion but he said they are confident they can still encourage other big cooperatives to join them.

He said the electricity costs will become more competitive once the cooperatives are allowed to own power assets and participate in power generation, a field already dominated by a few large power companies.

Silagan also asked President Rodrigo R. Duterte to support their plan to acquire Agus and Pulangui.

“Mr. President, we, the Mindanao-based cooperatives want to own the hydro power plants which we hope you would support because this will give us social justice, equitable distribution of wealth, peace and prosperity, and job generation,” he said.

The 2001 Energy Power Reform Act has excluded the privatization of Agus and Pulangui for 10 years, or until 2011, but the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management moved the deadline to this year.

Rhoda Ruth Pillerin, board member of 1MIECOOP, said cooperatives can manage power plants, banking on the efficient practices being followed by a cooperative.

“At the end of the day, this would be a dream come true for the energy sector if this is going to happen. We want to democratize the energy sector which is being controlled by a few families,” she said.

She said energy generation is a “lucrative investment” and opening the industry to the cooperatives is one way for regular members to become part owners of new power projects. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)