Tough balancing act for growth

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Among economic agencies, the Department of Energy (DoE) has the toughest job in relation to economic projections since building of power capacity needed to be precise to avoid brownouts and, at the other end, prevent wasted resources as a result of idle plants.

“We projected that we’re going to have a seven percent growth and to support that, including the build-up of infrastructure through the “Build, Build, Build” project, we need to build power plants with around 43,000 megawatts of power up to 2040,” Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said.

Cusi added up to 2030, the power requirement is estimated to be around 15,000 megawatts.

“What is important, however, is that while we build the power plants, we also understand what kind of power do we need,” Cusi said.

“There are also issues on environment and the community acceptance of certain sources of power,” he added.

He said the need is for a balance of the impact on the environment, the affordability, the stability and the sustainability of the power projects.

A complex task

“So it is not a simple as just put up a power plant… we all know that we are importing everything except for a little oil production that we have in the West Philippine Sea. Some 50 percent of our power are sourced from oil and these are mostly used to fuel transportation,” Cusi said.

Base load power plants, the mid-merit generators that can run for a longer period and those that are deployed for peaking are the different sources of electricity for the country.

Cusi said 32 percent of power are sourced from coal then you have the natural gas from Malampaya, which is 15 percent then you have the renewables which are hydro, geothermal, solar and wind that makes up 30 percent and then 10 percent of that is oil.

“Let’s not forget that we are an archipelago… with the main grid including Visayas and Mindanao, having the big distribution utilities supplying electricity. In the past, prior to 2016 we always have an intermittent brownout. Electricity when it is there, you don’t notice the difficult process to keep it flowing. Well what we are doing is that to make sure that when you switch on your light, electricity flows to it,” Cusi said.

Economy’s lifeblood

Cusi said the DoE is trying to build up the capacity so that we can support the present demand and give enough reserves where people can source and use it to create wealth.

“Because you use energy and power to create wealth,” Cusi added.

At the moment, power capacity in the country is around 21,000 to 23,000 megawatts but there is a need to meet our economic projection of a 6 percent annual growth.

Calculating capacity is also a difficult task. Cusi said, for instance, when you say 600 megawatts (MW) capacity of a power plant, it does not mean that the electricity grid is supplied with an exact 600 MW of electricity considering its use and age. “So we all factor that in our projection,” Cusi said.

Projections will also have to include system losses or electricity stolen through pilferage and investments that are being committed to the power sector.

“It’s important that we build the infrastructure ahead of the demand since it usually takes five years to build one power plant,” Cusi said.

Promising energy sources

Cusi added renewable energy provides promises in meeting power demand but, for now, the efficiency factor of such electricity sources is very low.

“Solar power plant is faster but, of course, the efficiency factor is different, he said.

A solar plant will have a different efficiency factor because it is dependent on sunlight. When we say this is a 100-megawatt solar capacity, we will not get the full 100-megawatt.
Depending on the sun, the average output would only be 17 megawatts.

Cusi said the DoE’s top concern, however, is on ensuring that energy service is immediately restored after an emergency situation such as in the aftermath of typhoons and earthquakes.

“The department’s task is to ensure that energy services are restored at the soonest possible time. We need all available tools and technologies to enhance our resiliency planning and implementation,” Cusi said.

Quick restoration

The DoE has sealed a partnership with the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology for the use of Filipino-made state-of-the-art software called Rapid Earthquake Damage Assessment System (REDAS) that helps enhance the energy sector’s ability to identify areas that might be greatly affected by earthquake incidents.

Cusi said the MoA outlines the development of a database on hazard, risk assessment and exposure to earthquake through the use of the REDAS. It can be used as a tool for emergency preparedness, contingency planning and mainstreaming disaster risk reduction.

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