SAN CARLOS CITY – President Benigno Aquino III yesterday led the historic switch-on of the first large-scale commercially-financed and commissioned solar power plant in the Philippines that has began selling 13 megawatts of power to the Visayas grid, with an additional 9 MW set for next month.
The President said the San Carlos Solar Energy Inc. plant displaces carbon emissions equivalent to those produced by 14,805 tons of oil for each year of operations.
“It serves as a shining example of the collective steps we are taking to minimize climate risk,” Aquino said.
The solar plant is especially important in the light of the Philippines' experience with Typhoon Yolanda — a storm that ravaged a large part of the Visayas region six months ago, he said.
Not only did it challenge us to build back better, more resilient communities, and to improve our disaster response mechanisms, it also underscored the adverse effects of climate change and showed the world the new normal of increasingly frequent and intense storms, he said.
The responsibility to act in the face of growing climate risk falls on all of us, whether we belong to the government or the private sector, and SACASOL is the perfect example of this, he said.
The solar plant is funded by ThomasLloyd and Bronzeoak Philippines, companies with a strong interest in renewable and clean energy investments and a project supported by the local government, the President noted.
He added that more power plants are underway for the Visayas Grid alone, with most slated for commissioning from this year until 2016: from traditional energy sources, to geothermal, to hydropower, to wind, to biomass, making for an incoming committed capacity of 591.60 MW.
SACASOL chairman Jose Maria T. Zabaleta Sr. said they will also break ground for an 18-megawatt solar plant in La Carlota City in Negros Occidental today, and another in San Carlos City and Manapla in Negros Occidental, and Bais City in Negros Oriental, producing a total of 100 MW of solar power.
They are all expected to be operational by mid next year and will cost $10 million, Zabaleta added.
Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said the solar plant in San Carlos and other renewable energy plants set to rise will address power shortfalls in Negros Occidental and the rest of the country.
Investments in power enliven the local economies and provide honest, decent sources of livelihood; they add to the energy mix and help ensure a more steady supply of power; and, perhaps most importantly, they point to the promise of future growth for the community, the region, and the country, the President said.
But he also said that, as much as there are many advocates who support and promote the use of solar energy – and while government believes that it is a necessary and welcome addition to the energy mix – “We must be cognizant of its current limitations: the still high cost to harness solar energy as compared to other sources, which includes the additional requirements for ancillary capacity to connect it to the grid.”
There is a need for government to manage the energy mix, from which the cost of power is derived, he said.
For the year 2013, the average available capacity of the Visayas Grid stood at 1,678 MW. Average peak demand was at 1,390 MW, he said.
“There are adequate reserves, but, of course, given the current economic momentum of the country, we cannot be content with present conditions; we also have to plan for the future,” he said.
Peak demand is projected to increase with sustained growth -especially since we expect dividends from peace in Mindanao, which will have a corresponding effect especially on our inter-regional trade, he said.
On top of that, the recent resurgence of the Philippines will only continue to add to the confidence of investors from all over the globe, the President said.
“A strong energy surplus will also be an important factor, as we explore the possibility of connecting the Mindanao grid to the now connected Luzon and Visayas grids,” he also said.
As the country moves closer towards realizing its vision of inclusive growth for the Philippines, the President said it needs partners like ThomasLloyd and Bronzeoak working towards a sustainable future for the country.
“Let us continue to work even harder, together, towards realizing our vision for the Philippines—let us continue to bring light into people's homes, into their workspaces and businesses, and illuminate the path to responsible, sustained, and inclusive growth,” he said.
Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3 rd District) said local officials should encourage more power generation on the island, ideally renewable, or Negros will be in a crisis.
He said the submarine cables that connect Negros to power from Iloilo and Cebu are not up for upgrading in the next 10 years.*CPG