Negros, Panay need to set up own plants

Negros, Panay need to set up own plants

Energy Sec. Reyes says going renewable is the way to go in the future as it is sustainable

By Ma. Ester L. Espina, Correspondent

TALISAY CITY: There is no way to go but energy self-sufficiency for Negros and Panay islands to avert the looming power crisis by 2010.

This was partly the immediate solution presented by Energy Sec. Angelo Reyes at the Energy Summit that urged stakeholders to encourage private sector investment in power plants in Negros and Panay held on Wednesday at Nature’s Village, Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

Currently, Negros is experiencing a deficit of 31 megawatts at peak hours while Panay needs an additional 30.6 megawatts, these despite attempts to transfer maximum power to these areas out of the surplus from Leyte’s power source.

The Department of Energy’s monitoring showed that for the months of March and April, Negros and Panay experienced power outages for 13 and 23 days, respectively, due to the maintenance of the Palinpinon geothermal plant.

Reyes said he is looking forward to a future where the people in the Visayas will have brownout-free days, but that will happen only if the stakeholders will work together and ensure that the islands have an investment-friendly atmosphere to encourage investors to come in and set up power plants to answer their needs.

At this point, Reyes said the government could only do so much because the Epira law has outlawed the national government from putting up new plants. While there have been private sector- initiated proposals to set up power plants in Negros and Panay, the local opposition has scared them away which resulted to the current power crisis these areas experience, and which is seen to worsen in a couple of years.

“Environmental concerns and ‘NIMBY’ (not in my own backyard) mentality against power projects could have prevented the current power shortage,” Reyes said, referring to the strong opposition against the proposed Pulupandan coal-fired power plant in 2001 and Kepco coal plant in Panay in 2003, both of which could have provided 100 and 200 megawatts, respectively.

With scheduled maintenance shut downs of Visayas base load plant units, particularly that of the Leyte and Tongonan geothermal plants, the Cebu coal thermal plant, and the Palinpinon and Nothern Negros geothermal plants, power supply shortage in Negros and Panay is expected to worsen if no immediate solution is adapted.

Transco President Art Aguilar explained that while the Leyte source may have a surplus of 360 megawatts, more than enough to sustain the needs of Cebu, Negros and Panay, “there is a limit to how much you can transmit to these areas even if Leyte doubles its capacity through sheer law of physics.”

“Exporting power through the lines reaching the end of Panay is limited, thus the need to set-up your own power-generating plants in the area,” Aguilar added.

Reyes, on the other hand, said there is a need to balance everything, referring to opposition against coal-fired power plants and the recent request of Philippine National Oil Corp.-Energy Development Corp. (PNOC-EDC) to expand their geothermal development. “While we would all want to protect the environment foremost, the cost of not having enough power is a lot more,” he said.

Using renewable energy is still the way to go in the future because its sources are sustainable, Reyes added.

He also announced that he will be back Monday together with PNOC-EDC to present solutions and programs that will address the strong reservations of Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra against the expansion development of PNOC in the Mount Kanlaon National Park.

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