Small-scale geothermal projects pushed as Philippines slides in global ranking
Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) - October 4, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government is pushing for the development of small-scale geothermal projects to reclaim the country’s spot as the second largest producer of geothermal energy.

However, developers are asking fiscal and non-fiscal incentives from government as low to medium enthalpy geothermal projects are high risk and require large capital.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is urging the industry to proceed to the next wave in Philippine geothermal growth, assistant secretary Robert Uy said during the First International Geothermal Conference Beyond Conventional Wednesday.

He said the country has not seen any geothermal development since the enactment of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, which dislodged the Philippines from the second top spot in terms of capacity generated from the resource.

“After placing second in the world ranking for a long time, the Philippines now ranks third after Indonesia,” he said.

“We all know that most of the attractive geothermal areas are already developed and aside from the Nasulo geothermal power plant and Maibarara geothermal project, there were no significant developments realized since the enactment of the RE Law,” Uy said.

With this, the agency is pushing for the development of medium to low enthalpy geothermal resources in the country.

“For the Philippines to attain additional geothermal capacities, we must look into sources that are beyond conventional like medium to low enthalpy and acidic geothermal energy source,” Uy said.

Low enthalpy geothermal resources are areas with a relatively low temperature. Compared to conventional geothermal areas with temperatures of over 250 degrees centigrade, low enthalpy resources range between 60 to 180 degrees centigrade.

The National Geothermal Association of the Philippines (NGAP) said geothermal resource is one of the renewable energy developments that could provide baseload, or 24/7 power supply. The other is hydropower.

The development of non-conventional geothermal resources, despite the low capacity generated, is more economical to develop due to their proximity to transmission lines and communities, unlike conventional geothermal projects that are expensive, up in the mountains and difficult in securing permitting requirements, NGAP president Joeffrey Caranto said on the sidelines of the conference.

However, the group cited hurdles in the development of these projects, such as cost, access to transmission lines, lack of incentives, tedious permitting process, and security issues.

The lack of power purchase agreements also poses a challenge for geothermal developers to push through with their projects.

To address the industry’s concerns, NGAP is working with the DOE to implement measures to support geothermal development.

“What we’re doing is we’re advocating with the DOE to come up with some sort of regulations or incentives that will also help the industry,” Caranto said.

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