British envoy finds PH energy investment policy ‘illogical’
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines—British Ambassador Asif Ahmad on Friday scored the Philippine government’s policy of putting a cap on foreign investment in renewable energy development while encouraging the full foreign ownership of traditional power generation.
Ahmad was in Palawan on Friday to witness the groundbreaking of a small hydroelectric power project initiated by a British-led company, the Langogan Power Corp. (LPC), which will tap several major rivers to generate electricity for the island province’s main power grid.
Not fully utilized
Ahmad, meeting with reporters, described the foreign ownership restriction on renewable energy as “illogical,” considering that the high cost of energy in the country was due to its inability to fully utilize renewable energy sources by encouraging investments.
“This is a situation which is illogical. Foreign participation in traditional power generation using coal, etc., is anything up to 100 percent. In renewable energy, it is limited to 40 percent. If anything, it should be the opposite,” Ahmad said.
“If you reform the situation where foreign participation [in renewable energy] is allowed, you can make energy cheaper,” he noted.
Ahmad said that in the case of the Langogan River in Palawan, it took the government more than 20 years to decide to tap into the province’s river systems for its power needs.
“The sad fact is that it had to take some 23 years since a British company first said [the project] was feasible. Effectively, that delay deprived one generation of children. That is the price of indecision,” he said.
7 long years
Ahmad was referring to the struggle of LPC to acquire a power supply contract with the Palawan Electric Cooperative, finally getting a 20-megawatt (MW) deal in late 2015, seven years after submitting its proposal.
“We associate ourselves with this project because it is a good example of entrepreneurship. It is in your hands or you repeat the mistakes of the past and find ingenious ways of shooting yourselves again in the foot,” he said.
Power on the Palawan mainland is supplied by three independent power producers (IPPs) using bunker fuel, including one owned by the DMCI conglomerate that is trying to set up a coal-fired power plant amid stiff opposition from local environmental groups.
Once operational, LPC is expected to supply at least 20 percent of the province’s total electricity demand and will be accorded priority dispatch in the grid because of its renewable energy status.
Mike Wooten, LPC president, told the Inquirer the company would begin work on a 14-kilometer access road to the Langogan River where the power generators will be put up.
“It will probably take three to four months to gain access to the river, then construction will begin,” he said.
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