PHILIPPINES: Sugar industry wants biomass power tariff

Published: 04/13/2012, 12:48:01 PM

A sugar industry group has called on the government to prioritize the approval of the feed-in-tariff rate (FIT) for biomass power as a possible sustainable solution to the power supply lack in Mindanao, according to the Philippines' Business World.

"The energy policy makers need to realize that Mindanao, being agriculture-based, possesses an abundant biomass energy resource, which is generated as a residue from the production of various agricultural crops in the region," said the Philippine Sugar Millers Association (PSMA) in a statement.

According to the industry group, the potential biomass from crops in Mindanao, such as corn, coconut and sugarcane, are currently going to waste, as they are just left to decompose or burned so as not to attract pests and diseases.

"The power supply problem in Mindanao has become a problem of national proportion that seriously needs a sustainable solution. However, most of the solutions that have been put forward point to short-term but costly solutions... which also further aggravate climate change," it said.

The group cited fossil fuel-based power plants, specifically those powered by coal and diesel, as an example of one solution being proposed that it says will have a "negative environmental and socioeconomic impact of overdependence on fossil fuel."

Feed-in tariff is a guaranteed payment to renewable energy investors through a generation charge. Republic Act 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, which promotes the country's development, utilization and commercialization of renewable energy resources, had tasked the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) to craft rules for a feed-in tariff system for electricity produced from wind, solar, ocean, run-of-river hydropower and biomass.

The implementation of the FIT rates is pending at the Energy Regulatory Commission.

According to data from the Sugar Regulatory Administration cited in the press release, the sugar sector in Mindanao has a wide untapped biomass potential, as annual sugarcane production in the region averages five million tons.

This amount produces about 1.5 million metric tonnes of bagasse (biomass) generated by mills in the region. Currently, bagasse is only used to generate the internal power requirements of the four mills in the region whose generation capacity is about 35 MW.

If the FIT rates for renewable energy are approved and implemented, the PSMA said that this could encourage investors to support the production of biomass power, which could improve power supply.