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The Philippines seeking to rev up geothermal development again

Makban geothermal power plant, Philippines (source: ThinkGeoEnergy, creative commons)
Alexander Richter Alexander Richter 10 Oct 2018

The Philippines are looking at revamping geothermal development again, following its drop behind Indonesia in global rankings of geothermal countries earlier this year.

During the economic growth times of the Philippines in recent years, the country focused on feeding increasing energy demand with cheaper and quicker-to-develop plants burning fossil fuels. This resulted in a lack of interest in further developing geothermal based on the resources the country is blessed with.

Earlier this year, the Philippines lost number two status of countries with geothermal power generation capacity to Indonesia. So despite the initial rush of the 1970s and 1980s, there has been a neglect of this great energy source for the country.

In June this year the country launched a new string of exploration surveys, which is an addition to roughly 10 contracts with power companies on geothermal exploration.

“Of course the target is to increase the existing capacity,” Ariel Fronda, head of the renewables division of the Philippine energy ministry told AFP.

“There is a high degree of interest in renewables in general… Energy has suddenly become an attractive business,” he added.

The Philippines’ seven geothermal fields now supply about 12 percent of the nation’s energy, with a long-term plan to nearly double capacity by 2040.

The Philippines has the fifth-largest geothermal reserves, behind only the United States, Indonesia, Japan and Kenya.

Though nominally free, finding the resource is an expensive enterprise, with exploration wells costing up to $8 million each with no guarantee of success.

“Geothermal is that risky,” said Fronda, with the government requiring at least two wells per private exploration project in order to more accurately estimate the yield of a site.

The government requires each mining project, the construction of two wells in order to more accurately estimate the reserves of the site.

If the Philippines fell for a place in the world rankings, they remain one of the major players in the sector of geothermal energy, says David Livingston, an expert in renewable energy within the think-tank the Atlantic Council.

“The Philippines can play a role of catalyst to spark interest in geothermal energy, other developing Nations, especially if its more recent projects are successful”, he said.

For now, the main news related to the Philippines come from the privately-owned Energy Development Corp. (EDC), a geothermal giant in the Philippines that is now increasingly looking at geothermal investment opportunities outside of the country, e.g. in Chile and Peru, as well as Indonesia and beyond.

Source: ABS-CBN, Koz Post