Monthly Archives: July 2012

If the Shoe FITs – RP announces Feed In Tariffs for Renewables (Finally)

In a historic day for renewable energy in The Philippines, the country approved a feed-in tariff (FIT) that covers small hydro, biomass, wind, and solar. It postponed including ocean energy for further study.

The government previously announced the FIT for geothermal separately, in what it calls a “geothermal crash program.” It raised the rates to provide incentives to more than double capacity in the next few years. Geothermal supplies about 20% of the country’s electricity.

Details on the FiT

First called for in the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, the approval comes all these years later after “protracted quarrels within the government and opposition from various influential interest groups. The regulatory commission alone took more than a year to rule on the recommendations of the National Renewable Energy Board,” observes Paul Gipe of Wind-Works.

The rates are lower than the Board recommended, especially for solar, and vary only by technology – there aren’t different rates for size or other factors, making it much simpler than most FiTs.

Final Rates:

Run-of-river hydro: 5.90 per kWh
Biomass: 6.63
Wind: 8.53
Solar: 9.68

National Renewable Energy Board Recommended Rates:

Run-of-river hydro: 6.15 (PhP/kWh)
Biomass: 7.00
Wind: 10.37
Solar: 17.95

To avoid the cost-overruns being experienced in countries like  Germany, rates have been lowered based on updated construction costs – since solar is much cheaper to build now, for example, its FIT rates are much lower. Rates are also based on higher capacity factors to ensure only more efficient plants participate. They also include the cost of operating plants and a reasonable return on investment for developers.

Rates will be reviewed in three years or when installation targets for each technology are met. The FIT will be in place for 20 years but could be adjusted for new projects if there are significant changes to the cost of a technology.

Sagada, Batad, Coron, Pearl Farm and Bais… thus began the journey

Today I write about the beginnings of the traveling sneakers. My passion for exploring nature’s wonders began after college. Budget constraints limited my destinations back then, but that did not prevent my imagination from capturing those moments and storing them in the gigabyte of happy memories. Let the traveling sneakers walk down memory lane…

Zamboanga Sibugay, 2005

The Mountains of Sagada and Banaue

There is a humbling feeling that mountains give you once you’ve hiked their peaks. Up there, the air is so clear its like breathing in pure tranquility. The skies become bluer and the sun’s rays dazzle you with optical images as if the Sun god sprinkled tiny daylights on the verdant forests. And the foliage! Here and there you see trees humongous as urban skyscrapers. The forest floor will always have an endless supply of dried leaves that crackle under your feet. Ah, nothing like the sound of dried leaves crunching crisply under my bare feet. But the best feeling one could experience is that inner calmness as if you are communing with the Creator. There’s really that humbling aura up there that makes you look up and say,”Truly this is majestic!” The clouds seem so near you can almost touch the cottony fibers, yet your feet remains anchored on the mountain ground like the deep roots of the sequoia tree, a reminder that despite our lofty achievements, we remain as earth dwellers, stewards of a time that is really not ours. The hike up there may be  grueling but the weariness dissipates once you reach the zenith and watch in awe the 360-degree view of this masterpiece called creation.

Valencia, Negros Oriental (2004)

Sagada (2008)

Batad-home of the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces (2008)

Pearl Farm, Bais and Coron: of Kayaks and Sea Creatures

The 360-degree cinerama turns even better as you go sea-borne. The sea breeze playfully ruffles your hair as the pump boat cuts through the aquamarine waters. And the sand! Never has the sea become more illuminated by the stark-white shoreline.

Imagine this: A salty-soft wind blows while the half-orb sun peeks on the horizon splashing splendid hues on the palette of the skies of dawn. The pump boat glides through and you look down the ramp and see orange-striped fishes, wiggling blue fries and glowing corals stretching from end to end. Splash! you dive and bathe in the cool waters while the sea creatures dance in a beautiful soiree around you. Later on you will be paddling the kayak oars and once again feel the soft wind kissing your skin. Then, two dolphins glide beside your vessel and swiftly jump into the air. Like a choreography for a gala show, they would build your excitement culminating in what could be compared to the acrobatic displays of Poseidon’s fantastic water chariot gliders. Dolphins, they’re wonderful creatures. They bring out the child in you. They excite you. They make you laugh.  They thrill you. They remind you of those days when playing was all we do all day, when innocence was such a bliss you could have sworn mammary glands were not erotic (oops, pardon me).

Coron cruising (2006)

Bais sandbar, Negros Oriental (2004)

Gleeful dolphins, Bais (2004)

And the journey goes on…

Put on a smile and revel in the fact that indeed, life has become a beautiful journey. This pair of traveling sneakers has now reached the other side of the world and boy there are stories to tell. In the middle of the journey, it actually found another pair of traveling sneakers and the destinations became more colorful and more wonderful. Today, my wife and I have worn out our traveling sneakers from wearing them to many destinations (and counting more). There is still so much out there to be explored. One thing remains clear to us: We view the world from the top, but we stay grounded. Life gets even better when you see it 360 degrees.

The feet that became traveling sneakers’ co-explorer and partner in life.



UK’s largest geothermal project to be built in Manchester

Plans are revealed today by GT Energy that UK’s biggest commercial deep-geothermal heat plant is going to be developed in Ardwick district in Manchester. The news comes just weeks after the Anglo-Irish energy company announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with energy giant E.ON to jointly develop up to four urban geothermal heat networks.This brings to mind how the invention of the steam engine catapulted Manchester into the Industrial Age. This particular project , when commissioned successfully paves the way for similar viable projects in years to come. GT Energy is targeting untapped heat resource sitting beneath Manchester. The project intends to drill two wells around 3,000 meters deep at a half acre site in the district of the city to tap into the huge geothermal resource below.

Although planned only for 10MW capacity, said project will be able to supply direct heating to homes and businesses through a direct heating system in the area including the corridor of the University of Manchester that stretches along Oxford Road

The project was welcomed by Climate Change Minister Greg Barker, who hailed the initiative as “exactly the sort of innovative green project we want to see sprouting up across the country”.

The Manchester plant is part of GT Energy’s goal of developing 500MW of geothermal capacity across the country and will run alongside a number of projects that the company already has underway in the UK and Ireland.

Geothermal energy is seen by the government as a way of reducing the amount of emissions generated by producing heat, which stand at about a third of the country’s total as the vast majority of production relies on fossil fuels.

However, consultants Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) said earlier this year the subsidies provided through Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) are not sufficient to meet this target and the UK is at risk of missing out on market estimated to be worth £30bn by the end of the decade.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Philippines in particular, geothermal energy is a shining beacon of how indigenous resource has been fully tapped to provide a substantial share of clean electricity to the power grid. Power produced from geothermal resources averages from 12 to 18 percent of the Philippines’ energy supply mix, with another bigger chunk coming from natural gas, hydro and other renewable sources. The country is still an importer of oil but is not entirely dependent on it. Just this week I ran a story that the Philippine government has made new agreements with New Zealand to invest $8 billion worth of geothermal projects in the next 10 years or so. Indonesia, another country blessed with geothermal resources has been aggressively pushing for its expansion program as well with the Ring of Fire being promoted by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Energy Development Corporation (EDC), one of the world’s biggest vertically integrated geothermal company based in the Philippines. Both countries are world leaders in geothermal energy production with the former on the number two spot just behind USA while the latter is the third biggest producer.

(With news excerpts from Will Nichols of Business Green)

Bio-ethanol Plant Sparks Sustainable City Project

In one of my trips to the Visayas, I visited the country’s first commercial scale bio-ethanol facility in San Carlos City, located in the province famous for being the sugarland capital of the Philippines.  The tour inside the plant opened up my eyes to another renewable energy idea. Despite the commercial and policy challenges this project has faced, what remains clear is that the path to sustainability is possible.

San Carlos City in The Philippines initiated the Sustainable City Project to balance economic growth and environmental protection, and to focus equally on rural and urban development. The program won a Galing Pook Foundation Award in 2008. Galing Pook is a sister program of the Ash Center’s Innovation in American Government Awards Program

New Zealand Returns to Philippines to Develop $8B Geothermal Projects

Energy Development Corporation’s Palinpinon I geothermal steamfield project was one of the Philippines’ earliest development project that benefited from NZ expertise. Today, EDC has become master of wet steam technology catapulting the country into the number 2 spot in worldwide geothermal energy production (photo courtesy of Energy Development Corporation)

This is the 112.5MW geothermal steamfield in Palinpinon today. The project features compact development technology. The power generating plant is located beside the steamfield. Multi-well pads and directional drilling were employed in this project. (Photo courtesy of Energy Development Corporation)

The Philippines targets an additional 1,500-2,000 megawatts (MW) of generation capacity from geothermal projects worth as much as $8 billion, making the country the top geothermal producer in the world in two decades.

New Zealand geothermal industry leaders, in a forum yesterday, said they are ready to share their technologies and expertise to local firms.

“Certainly our target is to be the number one producer. With that additional capacity we are looking at, we hope we can surpass the US in terms of geothermal production,” said Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras and Layug said the Philippines aims to increase its geothermal capacity by 1,500-2,000 MW in 2020-2030.

To date, installed geothermal production capacity in the country is 1,972 MW, the second highest in the world next to the US.

“In terms of potential, there is still that additional capacity that we can tap into,” Layug said.

“It is a matter of making sure that these projects will be developed more cost efficiently because they are smaller in scale and therefore we anticipate the higher cost,” Layug said.

Benchmark investment for geothermal projects is $2 million to $4 million for every MW, said Mike Allen, steering committee chair of industry group Geothermal New Zealand. Hence, an additional 1,500-2,000 MW capacity will require $3-8 billion.

The Philippine government wants to work with New Zealand, which is an expert in geothermal energy.

“We will work with them for the resource assessment with existing geothermal resources,” Layug said.

“New Zealand [firms] have expressed interest in the Philippines. We have come into agreements on how we will encourage private sectors from both sides to come and do this together,” Almendras said.

Almendras added that New Zealand-based companies can apply for a service contract while technology suppliers and experts can work with local firms.

Specifically, firms from New Zealand can assist in training and retrofitting existing geothermal power plants.

Allen said firms in New Zealand can also bring to the Philippines technologies for small scale geothermal power geothermal power production like 10-15 MW.

The companies can also help in locating and assessing resources, hence decreasing project risks, Allen said.

To date, New Zealand has an installed generation capacity of 750 MW from geothermal projects, which is expected to rise to 1,000 MW next year. It has a long-term geothermal potential of 3,000-4,000 MW, Allen said.

By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star)


Related stories:

New Zealand to help PH in geothermal projects

New Zealand and the Philippines find common ground in geothermal