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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Industry Experts Optimistic For Local Bio-Energy Growth

The Biofuels Act of 2006, penned by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri back in 2006, has made the country able to maintain and improveits renewable energy sources. Since the passing of the law, many renewable energy projects have been planned, produced, and inaugurated.

Despite this, however, a lot of the country’s renewable energy projects are suffering from a lack of supply, coupled with a huge demand. This problem is more felt in the supply of biomass, which are organic materials that can be sued to create energy such as bagasse from sugarcane, and copra from coconuts. “It’s not easy to do biomass,” said Alberto Dalusung III, President of the Biomass Renewable Energy Association. “It’s difficult to secure the feedstock, the price, and volume. That remains a challenge,” he continued.

Still, those in the industry are optimistic. “There is an upward trend,” said Job Ambrosio, a director of the Ethanol Producers Association of the Philippines (EPAP). “Yes, the demand is high and our current [bioethanol] production is quite low, but with the support of the government, we are now able to put up more biofuel plants which help small local farmers,” he explained. By Ambrosio’s optimistic estimate, the supply and demand for local biofuels will stabilize by 2017.

In the Philippines, biomass and biofuels are produced from four major crops: Rice, coconut, sugar and corn. “From these four major crops alone, 35.5 million tonnes of biomass energy can be generated if utilized properly,” said Sen. Zubiri. “The country currently has an installed capacity for biomass of 221 megawatts, coming mostly from sugar and ethanol plants. This only makes 1% of the total energy capacity in the whole country; that’s just scratching the surface.” 
“If investors can cooperate with small farms and their co-ops, then we can reach the potential power generation capacity of 4,450 megawatts from biofuels in the whole country, which can become constant energy supply to the grid,” continued Sen. Zubiri.

“The Biofuels Act was really meant to be for the farmers, and help them uplift their lives and their community,” Ambrosio said. EPAP’s bioethanol project in Magallanes, Cavite has created over 17,000 jobs while developing and utilizing indigenous renewable and sustainable sources of energy. Thanks to the many investments on the bioethanol plant, Magallanes has seen the rise of commercial and residential sites, as well as the improvement in telecommunications and internet services.
In the same vein, the production of biodiesel from coconuts helped sustain the Philippine coconut industry. Currently, the Philippines has over three million hectares in coconut plantation, some of which help produce cocobiodiesel from copra.

Zubiri further noted that the continued growth of the Philippine economy and the expected depletion of the Malampaya natural gas reservoir in less than a decade, renewable energy developments will face a serious production challenge. According to Zubiri, the renewable energy sector should take this window of opportunity for the sector to maintain and sustain the gains of renewable energy in the country.

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