4 January 2010 in Expat Newspaper
GGPC Breaks Ground for Nueva Ecija Biomass Plant
Philippine-registered renewable energy proponent Global Green Power PLC Corporation (GGPC) recently broke ground at the site of its latest venture, a 17.5-megawatt biomass power plant in San Leonardo, Nueva Ecija in a ceremony attended by diplomatic, national, and local officials.
The project, formally Green Power Nueva Ecija Philippines Inc. (GPNEPI), is one of 12 planned biomass plants to be located across the country. Four are in the first phases of development, with the groundbreaking of the Panay venture in the Visayas having taken place in May last year.
The plants, expandable to 35-megawatt capacity, will aim to address the country’s energy and climate change mitigation concerns while providing farmers in their respective areas with supplementary income for their agricultural waste. Each multi-fuel plant will make use of a variety of waste products, from rice straw to sugarcane tops to corn cobs, in generating electricity.
“Today, we use about 400 to 450 tons [of biomass] a day. Five years ago, we’d have to use 2000 tons a day to produce the same electricity. We use very specialized technology to achieve those efficiencies,” said GGPC president David de Montaigne. The plants will help stabilize energy needs by decentralizing demand from larger coal power plants.
As compared to other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy, “biomass is the only renewable energy technology that can deliver base-load electricity, which means constant electricity,” de Montaigne added. GGPC plans to maintain three months’ supply of biomass in stock by the plant and three more months’ worth within 25 kilometers at a transport hub.
The biomass plants are also set to positively impact the environment, with agricultural waste in this “Saudi Arabia of biomass,” as de Montaigne calls the Philippines, being converted into clean energy instead of being burned or dumped into waterways. GGPC additionally has capabilities to tap into other renewable energy sources, and areas for these have likewise been identified.
Economically, de Montaigne sees their biomass power plants benefiting both local farmers and the national economy. “Biomass is the only [renewable energy source] that has a direct impact on the local community. For each plant, we deliver over 900 jobs,” he said, adding that with biomass, the actual energy source, agricultural waste, is purchased from the community. The Nueva Ecija plant will deliver an estimated 200 million pesos in its first year of operation, and 9 billion pesos over 25 years, to the immediate community.
Each GGPC biomass plant will cost USD 43 million to build. However, de Montaigne stressed that the decentralization in coal power plant dependence will mean foreign exchange savings for the Philippines by decreasing foreign fossil fuel purchases. “This fallacy of renewable energy being too expensive doesn’t exist,” he said.
Four biomass plants, including those in Nueva Ecija, Panay, Pangasinan, and the Cagayan Valley, are scheduled for completion within approximately three years. GGPC will aim to have all 12 plants in operation within eight years, collectively producing 420 megawatts for the country.
Among the guests of honor at the Nueva Ecija plant groundbreaking ceremony were British ambassador Stephen Lillie, Finnish ambassador Heikki Hannikainen, and Department of Energy (DOE) undersecretary Ramon Santos. Amb. Lillie noted that with the background of climate change talks in Copenhagen, biomass plants are examples of “on-the-ground advancements” that put the country’s year-old Renewable Energy Act into action.
“The sooner, the better. The Philippines is one of the countries where [climate change mitigation] is certainly needed,” added Amb. Hannikainen. Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had previously set a 60-percent energy self-sufficiency goal for the country by 2010, and other officials on hand expressed optimism that the GGPC’s biomass plants will help reach that target.