MANILA, May 15 (Mabuhay) – The first large-scale, commercially-financed and -commissioned solar power plant in the Philippines was turned on by President Benigno Aquino III in Negros Occidental on Thursday amid a tight supply situation that continues to plague the country.
Aquino was in San Carlos City where he led a ceremonial switch-on of the 22-megawatt (MW), $45-million San Carlos Solar Energy Inc. (SACASOL). Only the 13 MW first phase of the project was inaugurated Thursday.
The second phase of the project, Phase 1B, consists of a 9-MW facility. Once complete, San Carlos Solar is expected to supply 35-million kilowatt hour of energy to the Visayas grid and to cover mainly the power needs of Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cebu, and Iloilo.
In his speech, Aquino said the Visayas grid will benefit from the 22-MW additional input from SACASOL, noting that, as a renewable energy project, the power plant is also expected to displace the equivalent of 14,805 tons of carbon emissions per year.
“It serves as a shining example of the collective steps we are taking to minimize climate risk – the fruit of our efforts to ensure that future generations will not be subject to the same vulnerabilities as we are now [experiencing],” he said.
The government’s project partners in SACASOL are financier Thomas Lloyd, a global investment banking and asset management group dedicated to renewable energy, and Bronzeoak Philippines Inc., which specializes in renewable energy project development.
Under the Thomas Lloyd Cleantech Infrastructure Fund, the company already invested $82 million in its Philippine portfolio, and is committed to invest $130 million more in the next two years, according to Thomas Lloyd.
The President said such projects are also important in light of the Philippine experience with Typhoon Yolanda, which ravaged a large part of Central Philippines six months ago.
“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 Palace has said that the power supply in Mindanao might remain tight until May.
But the President said that power supply is not yet at a critical level, while noting that the government is looking at other possible sources of power, including solar energy.
With the inauguration of SACASOL, Aquino said the Philippines is now closer to the goal of having a more diverse energy mix that is able to meet the country’s needs.
However, that it costs more to harness solar energy as compared to other sources, not to mention the additional requirements for ancillary capacity to connect it to the grid, the President said.
“Renewable energy is still the most expensive component. It follows that if our entire energy mix is derived from renewable sources, then the price of electricity – which people are already complaining about today – will rise even more. Government therefore has to strike a balance between this, and our desire to attract more investments in renewable energy,” he said.
More power plants are underway for the Visayas grid alone to complete the committed capacity of 591.60 MW, Aquino noted.
Aside from SCASOL, the President is also expected to lead the inauguration of the newly repaired Himoga-an Bridge, which links the south and north side of Negros. The project cost P313 million. (MNS)