‘Geothermal is risky’
The Philippine government launched in June a string of new exploration surveys, which comes on top of the roughly ten contracts the nation has signed in recent years with power companies to drill exploratory wells.
“Of course the target is to increase the existing capacity,” Ariel Fronda, head of the renewables division of the Philippine Energy Ministry said.
“There is a high degree of interest in renewables in general... Energy has suddenly become an attractive business,” he added.
The Philippines’ seven geothermal fields now supply about 12 per cent of the nation’s energy, with a long-term plan to nearly double capacity by 2040.
The Philippines has the fifthlargest geothermal reserves, behind only the United States, Indonesia, Japan and Kenya.
Though nominally free, finding the resource is an expensive enterprise, with exploration wells costing up to US$8mn each with no guarantee of success.
“Geothermal is that risky,” said Fronda, with the government requiring at least two wells per private exploration project in order to more accurately estimate the yield of a site.
The effort to stoke up the nation’s geothermal engine largely pre-dates the arrival of President Rodrigo Duterte.
However, last year he created an energy investment council that can greenlight major new projects in 30 days. A geothermal exploration effort is among the four initiatives it has approved.
Though the Philippines has tumbled, it still can be an important player in geothermal, said David Livingston, a renewable energy expert with the US-based Atlantic Council thinktank. “The Philippines can serve as a catalyst for other developing nations’ interest in geothermal, particularly if its newest... programmes prove successful,” he added.
This file photo shows steam coming out from cooling towers of the Maibarara Geothermal plant in Santo Tomas, Batangas, south of Manila on August 3
This file photo shows the water pipes of the Maibarara Geothermal plant in Santo Tomas, Batangas, south of Manila on August 3