With every construction of a building to cater more jobs, a home to shelter families coming to the province, or a road for transport, and for each expansion of business comes a corresponding demand for power.
Cebu’s strategic need for power sources: Possibilities, and Challenges to Energy Independence
The growth of Cebu Province is very evident from the increasing number of business establishments and job opportunities. Because of this, the population has also diversely and hugely prospered. Tourist destinations and historical landmarks might be the same. However, there are more people going here and there for them to experience the Cebuano hospitality.
The province is abundant in natural resources as the majority of these resources are being promoted as part of the tourism initiatives to explore Cebu Province as a strategic location rich in water, land, and vegetation. As these natural resources pave a way for Cebu’s future on energy production and consumption, these can be a source of renewable energy.
Renewable Energy in Cebu and its Possibilities
Renewable energy technologies currently exist in Cebu located on the southern side of the island. There is one operating in Barili, and two in Badian. These three hydropower plants, operated by Cebu Electric Cooperative (Cebeco) I, can produce a combined capacity of 1.72 megawatts (MW).
On the other hand, Solar energy can also be an alternative energy source for Cebu. The region’s leading power distributor Visayan Electric Company (Veco) stated that though they are still using coal and some fossil fuel, 50% of their electric supply now comes from renewable energy. In contrary to its possibilities, Veco still has to maintain a balanced mix of renewables and thermal energy sources to address the different levels and patterns of power demand in a cost-effective way.
Energy Independence in Cebu through Renewable Energy
There is a huge potential for solar energy in Cebu, according to PV2 Energie Philippines, Inc.’s general manager Brenda Baylon during the Construction Show Cebu held last June 8, 2019, at the SM Seaside City Cebu Sky Hall. With its current potential demand in Cebu, even though small in number, there is already a four (4) percent of the country’s renewable energy mix of solar energy and other power sources.
Hydropower accounts to 50 percent in the renewable energy mix, while 27 percent on Geothermal accounts. The demand on owning photovoltaic (PV) or solar panel energy system was due to the fact that the industries present in the country are more welcoming for the solar energy concept and the decline in the solar panel system cost (price has gone down between 10 to 15 percent compared to the price five years ago).
Cebu can go renewable because of its natural resources available. There is a great opportunity to explore renewable energy in Cebu as it can help lessen the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and it can also help reduce the effects of climate change. It is also cheaper than fossil-based technologies in the long term.
Challenges on Renewable Energy
“Renewable energy is good,” said Veco chief operating officer Anton Perdices during a forum on Renewal Energy last July of 2017. “But it’s not yet suitable on its own.” That is why Veco is still operating and maintaining a balanced mix of renewables and other generation sources to provide a reliable and competitively priced power.
In the case of hydropower energy resources in Cebu and the lack of viable hydropower resources, the development of hydropower plants also entails huge investment. The estimated cost for hydropower plant development range between ₱100 – ₱150 million per megawatt of power. In the case of Cebeco’s third and last hydropower plant in Barangay Basak (Badian) that has a capacity of 500 kilowatts, the investment value is ₱70 million.
Among the several renewable energy technologies, hydropower plants have one of the most reliable plant factor or capacity factor at 85 to 95 percent. However, rivers in Cebu are very small. There are still other rivers that have not been tapped, but it is not as attractive for investors.
The Energy Resource Development and Utilization Division (ERDUD) has recently identified the southern town of Malabuyoc as another source of hydropower in Cebu. The town can potentially generate another 500 megawatts. However, there are no investors interested to tap this project.
Other renewables, such as solar power plants, have a much lower capacity factor of only 20 percent due to conditions like rains and cloudy skies.
If Renewable Energy is not enough, then, what else?
In 2018, the natural gas discovered in the Alegria field in southern Cebu can supply the requirements of a small natural gas-fired power plant. It can power up to 60-megawatt (MW) facility that can help the local economy because it will support the local industry, cement factories and local factories using crude oil for fuel.
Natural gas is the cleanest burning conventional fuel, producing lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than the heavier hydrocarbon fuels, like coal and oil. The advantages of natural gas include efficiency, abundance, and versatility. Historically, natural gas also has been one of the most economical energy sources.
Natural gas can be used to fuel electric power plants and is used as a raw material in many consumer products. Finding ways to sustain growth while lowering emissions is a growing imperative. In coming decades, as new cities, factories and infrastructures rise around Cebu, natural gas can help fuel energy demand and economic growth, both at major and component cities in the province.
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A Call to Action
With the rapid growth of foreigners coming to Cebu in the past months and the competitive growth of businesses in the region, the government and the support of agencies available must work together to make Cebu an energy independent province. With the implementation of the Republic Act 9513, they must be a working force to attract investors to finance these projects since it is cost-effective and cheaper in the long run.
The community must also be open-minded to the idea of renewable energy and natural gases as alternative power sources. Considering the price of solar energy panels going down, it is a good investment to start going green and going sustainable in terms of energy production and consumption. It might be challenging at first, however, these practices are beneficial to both the people and the government to make Cebu a premier contributor to mitigating climate change and achieving energy independence.