Alvarez to DOE: Rush approval of renewable energy projects in Palawan

by | Apr 6, 2016

Palawan Governor Jose C. Alvarez appealed to the Department of Energy (DOE) to fast-track the approval of the applications for renewable energy (RE) projects in the province, and also to immediately cancel service contracts that are non-compliant to give other renewable companies the chance to apply.

Alvarez made his appeal known before the representative of the DOE-Energy Resource Development Bureau (ERDB), Assistant Director Ismael Ocampo, who was acknowledged to present about the “DOE Energy Program Prospects and Opportunities for Palawan” during the 223rd Regular Council Meeting of the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD), March 31.

“To tell you very honestly, we are really discouraged on why the process of application and approval takes a very long time,” said PCSD Chairman Alvarez.

Alvarez further advised Ocampo to examine the applications of the non-compliant companies. “Examine them, and if they do not have good performances, cancel them,” the governor added.

Nelson Devanadera, PCSD Staff Executive Director, expressed observation that it takes three to five years from conducting a feasibility study up to the actual implementation of an RE project.

He added that the layers of bureaucracy have also been contributing to the delay. For instance, the municipal government of Narra, Palawan, had signed some two years ago a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with a hydropower company but the project has yet to materialize to date.

The delay in project implementation was lamented further by Narra Mayor Lucena D. Demaala, who is also the president of the League of Municipalities.

Alvarez pointed out the glaring irony that, while “the province [is] producing much of the energy material” to power up Luzon, it is also “the province that [is] very much deprived of energy.”

“That’s why my constituents, maybe, will not elect me anymore because power supply here is intermittent,” said the governor, who is seeking another term in the upcoming May polls.

Alvarez expressed his desire, if possible, for the provincial government to intervene and act expeditiously on the heap of RE applications.

He suggested this could be possible if the DOE will “delegate some of its powers,” to the provincial government. He assured that once they reach his office, he will approve the applications right away provided that they have doable feasibility studies and funding.

“If there’s a chance for the provincial government to assist or to help its own in order to fast-track the development of renewables for the province, and if there is an opportunity in that law (RE Act of 2008), I would try to look for possible provision [permitting] the provincial government to intervene,” said the governor.

Alvarez, also expressed fear that potential RE investors may get discouraged and back out due to what he described as the lengthy process of application and approval from the DOE.

“The lengthy approval process that the RE investors have to endure may cause our investors to lost their appetites in pursuing their proposal.”

On the other hand, Ocampo explained they are receiving up to a hundred applications, notably from companies eyeing to invest in mini-hydro and solar projects.

“Of course, we need to look into their financial and technical capabilities. If they do not have capital, they might not be approved. And after we award the service contracts, yet they’re not doing anything, then we can cancel,” Ocampo said.

Ocampo added he could not elaborate further on this matter given that it is not within his turf, but promised he will make Alvarez’s concern known to the appropriate bureau, the DOE-Renewable Energy Management Bureau.

As of January 31, 2016, Ocampo reported to the Council that there is a total of 15 awarded service contracts for hydroelectric power projects in Palawan.

If all becomes operational, they can generate a grand total of 142 megawatt; but he said none of these are compliant to date.

Meanwhile, he added the DOE also awarded five service contracts for solar projects in the province, and one for biomass.

Palawan Island Master Plan for Energy Development 2015-2035 shows that renewable energy, specifically hydropower is the cheapest source of power. Potential hydroelectric projects in Palawan have an estimated capacity of 182.47 megawatts, which can provide energy supply of up to 959 gigawatt-hours.