Philippines Inaugurates the San Carlos Solar Energy, Inc. Phase I

San Carlos Solar Energy

San Carlos Solar Energy – Speech of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines

Investments in power are meaningful in every sense of the word: they enliven the local economies and provide honest, decent sources of livelihood; they add to the energy mix and help ensure a more steady supply of power; and, perhaps most importantly, they point to the promise of future growth for the community, the region, and the country.

Today, we are not just inaugurating a power plant; we are also making history: The San Carlos Solar Energy, Inc. is the first large-scale commercially-financed and commissioned solar power plant in the Philippines under our administration. Because of this new project, the Visayas grid will eventually benefit from an additional 22 MW, 13 from phase one, which is being completed, and the remaining 9 MW I understand by the end of june, which is not too far away. All this, while SACASOL displaces carbon emissions equivalent to the emissions produced by 14,805 tons of oil for each year of operations. It serves as a shining example of the collective steps we are taking to minimize climate risk—the fruit of our efforts to ensure that future generations will not be subject to the same vulnerabilities as we are now.

This is especially important in light of the Philippines’ experience with Typhoon Haiyan, or Yolanda—a storm that ravaged a large part of the Visayas region six months ago. Not only did it challenge us to build back better more resilient communities, and to improve our disaster response mechanisms, it also underscored the adverse effects of climate change and showed the world the new normal of increasingly frequent and intense storms.

The responsibility to act in the face of growing climate risk falls on all of us, whether we belong to the government or the private sector. SACASOL is the perfect example of this. This is a project funded by companies with a strong interest in renewable and clean energy investments and a projectsupported by the local government. With your help, we are proving to the world: even developing countries such as ours can do their share in reducing the risks posed by global warming. And we are doing this even at a time when the development of solar power plants remains more expensive than that of plants fueled by traditional sources of energy.

We fully recognize the significance of your investment. As much as there are many advocates who support and promote the use of solar energy—and while we believe that it is a necessary and welcome addition to the energy mix, we must be cognizant of its current limitations: the still high cost to harness solar energy as compared to other sources, which includes the additional requirements for ancillary capacity to connect it to the grid.

As you might know, there is a need for government to manage the energy mix, from which the cost of power is derived. Unfortunately, renewable energy is still the most expensive component. It follows that if our entire energy mix is derived from renewable sources, then the price of electricity—which people are already complaining about today—will rise even more. Government therefore has to strike a balance between this, and our desire to attract more investments in renewable energy.

The situation is compounded by the fact that so many have adopted the wait-and-see, or have adopted a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to investing in these types of power plants. I am glad to see that, today, we are proving them wrong, and I must really congratulate and thank all those involved in this endeavor. [Applause] With this project, you are showing your confidence in your abilities and in what you have to offer—and most importantly, you are showing your confidence in our people, our economy, and our country. SACASOL is indeed at the head of the pack, and it is only right that you are reaping and will be reaping the maximum benefits and incentives—and perhaps are now the subject of envy for those investors who might only follow suit, and come in after the cap on renewable energy has been met.

Perhaps, this inauguration gives me the opportunity to issue a gentle reminder to all those who are still of the wait-and-see mindset: you might only be willing to follow the example of Bronzeoak Philippines and Thomas Lloyd Cleantech when these pioneers have proven the profitability of this venture. I should warn you: by that point, you may no longer be entitled to any of the incentives government is currently offering. [Applause]

Of course, the success of SACASOL dovetails perfectly with our administration’s goal of having a more diverse energy mix, which is able to meet our country’s needs—thus redounding to a more consistent energy supply. For the year 2013, the average available capacity of the Visayas Grid stood at 1,678 MW. Average peak demand was at 1,390 MW. There are adequate reserves, but, of course, given the current economic momentum of the country, we cannot be content with present conditions; we also have to plan for the future. Peak demand is projected to increase with sustained growth—especially since we expect dividends from peace in Mindanao, which will have a corresponding effect especially on our inter-regional trade. On top of that, the recent resurgence of the Philippines will only continue to add to the confidence of investors from all over the globe. A strong energy surplus will also be an important factor, as we explore the possibility of connecting the Mindanao grid to the now connected Luzon and Visayas grids. In this light, I am pleased to announce that more power plants are underway for the Visayas Grid alone, with most slated for commissioning from this year until 2016: from traditional energy sources, to geothermal, to hydropower, to wind, to biomass, making for an incoming committed capacity of 591.60 MW. SACASOL is part of this—and I should note that you are also leading the way in solar power, since this is the first solar project to be commissioned in the Visayas. Perhaps we can invite Bronzeoak Philippines to consider venturing outside of Negros Occidental—which currently hosts all your projects—and putting up even more power plants elsewhere in the Philippines, maybe as a continuation of this partnership with Thomas Lloyd Cleantech. Investments like this are what our country needs.

As we move even closer towards realizing our vision of inclusive growth for the Philippines, we will need partners like you—partners who, like us, are working towards a sustainable future for the country. Thus, let us continue to work even harder, together, towards realizing our vision for the Philippines—let us continue to bring light into people’s homes, into their workspaces and businesses, and illuminate the path to responsible, sustained, and inclusive growth.

Thank you, and good day.

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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.