RPS program requires part of power sales to come from renewables

MORE THAN a hundred clean energy companies with a total capacity of 2,619 megawatts (MW) have been cleared by the Energy department to participate in its renewable portfolio standards (RPS), a program that requires electricity sellers to source part of their supply from renewables.

In its tally as of end-December 2021, the Department of Energy (DoE) listed 147 renewable energy (RE) companies for the program, 62 of which are solar energy companies with a total capacity of 1,312.96 MW or more than half of the total eligible capacity.

“Eligibility of RE Facilities are based on the criteria provided in Sections 10 and 11 of Department Circular No. DC2017-12-0015 and Sections 9 and 10 of Department Circular No. DC2018-08-0024,” the department in its report released over the weekend.

The first circular covers the RPS program for on-grid areas, or those within the country’s interconnected system that transmits power from where it is produced to where the demand is.

RPS is a policy mechanism under Republic Act No. 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 mandating distribution utilities (DU) and retail electricity suppliers (RES) to source or produce at least a percent of their net electricity sales from eligible RE facilities.

The DoE later expanded the scope of the program to include those off the grid, thus increasing the use of RE while optimizing the power supply mix in these areas that are largely served by expensive diesel-fed power plants.

In summary, the DoE’s latest count covers 62 solar farms, 36 biomass and 36 hydro power facilities, seven wind farms, and six geothermal power plants.

Next to solar farms, hydro power plants came out with the biggest capacity of eligible projects at 412.802 MW. Wind farms followed with 409.9 MW, while biomass and geothermal projects under the program have a capacity of 264.845 MW and 218.5 MW, respectively.

Of the 147 renewable energy projects under the RPS program, the biggest project in terms of capacity is EDC Burgos Wind Power Corp.’s 150-MW wind farm in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. It started commercial operation on Nov. 11, 2014.

Bac-man Geothermal, Inc.’s 140-MW geothermal plant in Sorsogon province that started its commercial run on Feb. 5, 2015.

Helios Solar Energy Corp. followed with its 132.5-MW solar farm in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, which began operating on March 14, 2016.

SN Aboitiz Power-Benguet, Inc. is the fourth biggest power plant that is eligible for the RPS program with its 104.55-MW hydro power plant in Ambuklao, Benguet whose three units all started operating in 2011.

Solar Philippines Tarlac Corp. with its 100.613-MW solar farm in Concepcion, Tarlac is the only project that opened recently — on Sept. 12, 2019.

The RPS program is among the RE initiatives introduced by the DoE after it discontinued granting guaranteed and subsidized rates under the feed-in tariff system when the target capacity was reached.

On Nov. 3, 2021, the department issued revised guidelines for the green energy auction program, or GEAP, which calls for a transparent and competitive selection of RE facilities in assisting electric utilities in complying with their RPS requirements.

The updated GEAP guidelines adopted certain mechanisms under the feed-in-tariff system, such as a “central dispatch” that gives priority to RE when selling power through the wholesale electricity spot market.

The RE initiatives are seen by the DoE to spur greater private sector participation in the power generation sector through renewables, as the government aims to attain a 35% RE share in the mix by 2030.

As of 2020, the country had an installed power generating capacity of 26,286 MW, which is dominated by coal-fired power plants with a share of 42% or 10,944 MW. Renewables, oil-based and gas-fired power facilities had a share of 29%, 16% and 13%, respectively. — VVS