THE Energy department has identified 13 power projects in Luzon which have obtained financing and are supported by battery energy storage systems (BESS), with their combined capacity at 320 megawatts (MW), according to the department’s tally of private sector-initiated committed power projects.

Committed projects are those that have achieved financial closing with their investors or bankers. Storage allows irregular sources of power like solar to stockpile power while supply is plentiful and then discharge power when the source is unavailable, for example at night. The tally of storage-supported renewable projects indicates the volume of renewable power that might be reliably available to the grid.

All of the committed BESS projects in Luzon are by Universal Power Solutions, Inc., based on DoE (Department of Energy) figures updated on Oct. 2020.

Two years ago, on Oct. 2019, committed capacity supported by BESS in Luzon was zero.

BESS-supported committed capacities in the Visayas and Mindanao as of October amounted to 270 MW and 249 MW respectively, against their 2019 totals of zero and 49 MW respectively.

The DoE issued a circular in September 2019 that set the framework for energy storage systems, which include BESS. It ruled that such storage systems are to operate within the framework of generation companies supplying electricity to the grid.

BESS committed capacity is not included in DoE’s tally of total rated capacity, which only counts coal, oil, natural gas and renewable sources.

The rated capacity of committed coal-fired projects nationwide is 3,541 MW, as of October. Committed renewable capacity was estimated at 755.5 MW, including solar, geothermal, hydro, biomass and wind.

The rated capacity of indicative coal-fired projects nationwide last year was 7,748 MW, while that of indicative renewables outputs in all three islands stood at 24,647 MW. Indicative projects are those that have applied for endorsement from the DoE, and have yet to achieve financial closing.

In an advisory Monday, the DoE clarified that it will not process applications for greenfield coal-fired projects seeking endorsement, and that the freeze has taken effect across all grids since Oct. 27.

It added that the advisory does not cover committed coal-fired plants and projects with standing power plant complexes seeking to expand, or have made progress towards acquiring land for such expansions. The DoE said indicative power plants with “substantial accomplishments,” such as signed land or lease agreements and approved permits from government units, are also exempt.

In October, Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi announced an approval moratorium on greenfield coal-fired plants, a move projected by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis as possibly reducing the share of coal in the power mix to 16% from the current 41.5%, while ramping up the contribution of solar and wind to 42.8% from 5.4%. — Angelica Y. Yang