Geothermal technologies sought to be included in FiT program

Posted on August 17, 2016

THE National Geothermal Association of the Philippines (NGAP) is asking the government to include emerging geothermal technologies in the feed-in-tariff (FiT) program to address the cost and risks encountered by developers.

“FiT is already provided to solar, wind and other renewable energy sources considered ‘emerging technology’ for the Philippines, but geothermal is not yet included,” the association said in a statement that coincided with its annual meeting on Tuesday.

NGAP said it was calling for the subsidized rate for technologies “that are currently not commercially viable under existing market and pricing structures.”

The government has adopted the FiT program to encourage investments in renewable sources of energy as called for by Republic Act 9513 or the 2008 Renewable Energy Act. For solar, the Energy Regulatory Commission has approved a rate of P8.69 per kilowatt-hour, which is significantly higher than market prices.

NGAP said that with its meeting with the Department of Energy (DoE), the latter had determined that to achieve a target of increasing geothermal power capacity by 1,465 megawatts or by 75%, “certain enabling actions by the government” was required.

The association said the DoE “realizes that it can no longer hope to discover conventional ‘elephant-sized’ geothermal resources as these have been fully accessed and evaluated by the former state-owned energy development and public utility companies.”

It said the strategy should be “to apply new development technologies to what previously were considered to be second tier resources,” which the group cited as “technologies that can utilize acidic and young geothermal systems, development of low enthalpy geothermal systems, direct use of small-scale geothermal energy technologies (for example, modular well head turbines), and hybrid technologies.”

“With an appropriately structured feed-in tariff rate that will provide guaranteed payment to investors through a universal charge, these acidic and lower enthalpy resources can be developed to generate electricity,” it said.

“On the policy front, NGAP calls for expedited regulatory action and permit approvals, as well as assurance of peace and order in some of the more remote prospects. On the economic front, some prospects may languish because of the lower cost of coal-fired power generation relative to new geothermal generation,” the association said.

NGAP described its association as “a scientific, educational and cultural organization” whose members include Aboitiz Power Corp., Chevron Geothermal Services Co., Department of Energy, Emerging Power Inc., Energy Development Corp., Maibarara Geothermal, Inc. and Philippine Geothermal Production Co., Inc.

NGAP is an affiliate member of the International Geothermal Association. -- Victor V. Saulon