EDC eyes geothermal venture in Taiwan

By Lenie Lectura – May 23, 2019
from Business Mirror

File photograph of EDC Malitbog geothermal electric generation plant in Leyte.

LOPEZ-led Energy Development Corp. (EDC) is looking at a geothermal venture in Taiwan in a bid to scale up its geothermal investments here and abroad.

Francis Giles Puno, president of First Philippine Holdings Corp. (FPHC) and First Gen Corp., said the EDC is having partnership discussions with concession holders in Taiwan for the possible joint venture development of a geothermal site.

EDC is a unit of First Gen, a subsidiary of FPHC.

“We hope to be working in Taiwan geothermal. There are concessions; that’s why we’re working with the proponents to see what we can do to develop those concessions.  We’re talking to a number of local partners,” Puno said.

He did not identify the concession holders.

“We can work with the utilities there and many of them are substantially untapped.  They need the expertise, as well. In that sense, EDC can provide the expertise,” he added.

EDC is also trying to scout for a local partner in Indonesia.

“We’ve always been in the international arena. We’ve not focused on areas where we don’t feel we have competitive advantage. The competitive advantage of First Gen is in geothermal. So, that’s where we choose to play in the international area,” Puno said.

EDC is the Philippines’s renewable-energy leader and the largest producer of geothermal energy.

EDC President Richard Tantoco said geothermal is “the holy grail of renewable energy,” being the cleanest, most reliable and readily available.

“The Philippines has a vast geothermal potential. To spur the development of these untapped geothermal potential, we urge the government to incentivize the development of geothermal, which can provide not just clean and reliable power, but jobs and livelihoods to local communities as well,” he said.

Growth in demand and advancements in technology such as energy storage has led to renewable energy’s becoming increasingly cheaper, Tantoco said.

“We now have a choice. This is how we would like to imagine an ideal grid—with geothermal as baseload power, natural gas as mid-merit or transition fuel, solar for daytime peak, and hydro, wind, and battery as complement,” he said.

The country’s energy sector, particularly coal- power generation, has been identified as the greatest contributor to climate change, with almost 61 percent of global carbon emissions coming from energy and industrial processes.

Despite this, Tantoco emphasized the climate- change problem could be substantially mitigated.

“As much as 93 percent of total carbon emissions and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere can be addressed if the energy sector moves toward power generation from cleaner sources,” he said.

Coal is the worst of the various energy sources. He cited that global carbon emissions increased in 2018 by about 550 megatons (MT) compared to 2017 levels, reaching a historic high of 33.1 gigatons (GT). Coal-fired power plants were the single largest contributor to this growth, with an increase of about 280 MT and total emissions contributed by this sector exceeding 10 GT for the first time.

In the Philippines, as of 2018, coal accounted for more than 50 percent of the country’s energy mix.

“For the longest time, coal has been the baseload power of choice, due to the misconception that it is cheap. The truth is coal has externalities in addition to the ex-plant price and these have not been priced in to the illusory ‘least cost’ equation,” Tantoco said.

He further pointed out that as much as 90 percent of coal utilized in Philippine energy production is imported, placing the country under the mercy of volatile foreign-currency movements.