Renewable energy sources to power off-grid areas

Posted on October 14, 2014

THE NATIONAL Power Corp. (Napocor) will embark on a five-year program that will utilize renewable energy (RE) resources in areas not connected to the country’s main power grid.

The state-run power firm -- which is in-charge of providing electricity in off-grid areas -- will harness RE resources, particularly solar energy starting next year.

The country’s missionary areas are currently fueled by diesel-fed facilities.

“Napocor is keen to utilize renewable energy especially for off-grid areas, or those which are not connected to the main transmission grid that powers the country’s main islands,” a statement yesterday stated.

Data from the World Bank cited in the state-run firm’s statement showed that 30% of the Philippines’ population still don’t have access to electricity -- majority of whom are located in off-grid areas.

“Because of the country’s geographical composition, it is difficult and very costly to transmit and distribute power especially to remote islands,” Napocor Vice-President for Corporate Affairs Urbano C. Mendiola said in the same statement.

“We believe that Filipinos who live in off-grid areas are the ones who will benefit the most from renewable energy -- by using solar power for example, we will be able to increase the hours of electricity supply even up to 24 hours,” he added.

Power rates in off-grid areas, while subsidized, remain to be expensive. Besides the cost issue, some households only have power supply that last between four to 12 hours.

Napocor will be selecting some off-grid areas under the five-year program. Priority will be given to those that have the most expensive power rates.

“We are targeting tentatively 27 areas for development, subject for the approval of the Department of Energy,” Mr. Mendiola said.

To kick off the program, Napocor will start with Limasawa, a sixth-class municipality in Southern Leyte.

The power firm intends to put up a 10-megawatt (MW) solar project there next year, with commercial operations slated for 2016.

“For this project, the agency will be using a hybrid of solar photovoltaic systems combined with diesel as the energy source,” Mr. Mendiola said.

“With this, the solar energy will be able to deliver 10 MW, translating to additional eight hours of electricity per day,” he added.

Mr. Mendiola further said that the government’s plan to adapt RE goes beyond improving electricity transmission and cutting costs.

“In a larger scale, harnessing RE will help us reduce the impacts of climate change, as well as secure energy future of the Philippines -- the provision of an independent, sustainable and sufficient supply,” Mr. Mendiola added.

The program is also intended to attract investors to infuse investments for RE projects.

Napocor -- through its Small Power Utilities Group -- is mandated by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 to provide electricity to remote barangays and villages or areas not connected to the country’s power grid.

Areas considered off-grid include Mindoro, Marinduque, Palawan, Romblon, Masbate, Siquijor, Zamboanga, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. -- Claire-Ann Marie C. Feliciano