Beneco, IPs to de­velop 20-MW hy­dropower plant

Sun.Star Baguio - - Topstories -

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Talks on the pro­posed putting up of a 20-megawatt (MW) hy­dropower plant in Kabayan town in Benguet prov­ince are al­most done be­tween the Benguet Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive (Beneco) and the in­dige­nous peo­ple (IP) com­mu­ni­ties in the town.

“Our clos­est deal is work­ing on a project de­vel­op­ment pro­posal with ONKASKA (On­jon ni Kasig­u­ran shi Kabayan), which is the IP of Kabayan and we are get­ting ex­cited on a 20-MW pos­si­bil­ity,” Del­mar Car­iño, Beneco man­ager for le­gal and cor­po­rate af­fairs said.

Car­iño said the talks are ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­haust­ing the pro­vi­sions of the In­dige­nous Peo­ples Rights Act (IPRA) for a part­ner­ship be­tween the elec­tric co­op­er­a­tive and the IPs in Benguet for the joint ex­plo­ration of hy­dro po­ten­tials.

Once com­pleted and made op­er­a­tional, the project will ben­e­fit all con­sumers of Beneco, the IPs and the whole town of Kabayan, he said.

“It will lessen our de­pen­dence on coal or fos­sil fuel. It will en­able Beneco to use power from re­new­able en­ergy,” Car­iño added.

Beneco cur­rently av­er­ages a monthly uti­liza­tion of 70MW of power, which is sup­plied to all types of con­sumers in its fran­chise area, cov­er­ing Baguio and Benguet.

Car­iño said the pro­posed hy­dropower plant will also re­dound to lower cost of elec­tric­ity for con­sumers, since Beneco would be pro­duc­ing its own elec­tric­ity sup­ply in­stead of buy­ing from com­mer­cial pro­duc­ers.

“Be­cause the gen­er­a­tion fa­cil­ity is em­bed­ded within fran­chise area, the level of gen­er­a­tion cost that will be passed on to the con­sumers will be priced lower and the price per kilo­watt hour can also be sold at a re­duced price,” the lawyer said.

Beneco, he said, is a non-stock, non-profit distri­bu­tion util­ity owned by the con­sumer-mem­bers, thus, it does not need to earn much.

Car­iño said un­der the Elec­tric Power In­dus­try Re­form Act (EPIRA), elec­tric distri­bu­tion util­i­ties are per­mit­ted to go into power gen­er­a­tion if the source is from re­new­able en­ergy.

Mean­while, Beneco’s 3-MW fa­cil­ity in Buguias town in the prov­ince is ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional in 2019, the ex­ec­u­tive said.

Like the agree­ment in Buguias, af­ter 25 years, the com­mu­nity will co-own the pro­posed Kabayan power plant, that would be an ad­di­tional in­come for Kabayan town.

The in­come in the first 25 years of ac­tual op­er­a­tion will be held by Beneco, which it will use in pay­ing the loan it will ob­tain for the es­tab­lish­ment of the power gen­er­a­tion plant.

“Tataas ang kita nila and we also in­tend to of­fer the Buguias model to them,” Car­iño said.

Cur­rently, both par­ties are “fi­nal­iz­ing cer­tain agree­ments while Beneco is also try­ing to fi­nal­ize the tech­ni­cal and fi­nan­cial re­quire­ment of the project,” he

said.

The IPRA law has a pro­vi­sion on Ex­er­cise of Pri­or­ity Rights (EPR), which al­lows the in­dige­nous cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties (ICCs) and the IPs to dic­tate the terms of re­source de­vel­op­ment and use of re­sources within their do­main.

Car­iño said ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Com­mis­sion on In­dige­nous Peo­ples (NCIP), the ONKASKA can use the pro­vi­sion to their ben­e­fit.

“ONKASKA is try­ing to explore their power as In­dige­nous Cul­tural Com­mu­nity (ICC) to be the one to dic­tate how their re­sources will be used pur­suant to the IPRA,” he said.

He said this could be the first time an IP group will use such a pro­vi­sion to their ben­e­fit.

“If I am not mis­taken, ONKASKA will be the first in the Cordillera re­gion as an IP group to in­sist on their rights to be the one to dic­tate the terms of re­source de­vel­op­ment and their re­sources. That is why they are mak­ing use of a pro­vi­sion in IPRA called EPR, wherein one way or the other, you do not ex­actly con­duct an FPIC, the nor­mal one, be­cause un­der EPR, IP peo­ple have the right to be the one to en­ter into agree­ment and dic­tate the terms of their use of their re­sources,” Car­iño said.

“I think Kabayan will be the first that will use the EPR through a joint ven­ture or a part­ner­ship,” he added.

Af­ter the Buguias model, Beneco is bent on pro­duc­ing a ma­jor part of their elec­tric­ity need to fur­ther re­duce elec­tric­ity cost sold to its con­sumers.

Car­iño said Beneco has set-up a “Power Gen­er­a­tion Depart­ment” within the distri­bu­tion util­ity to han­dle the part, where they will pro­duce elec­tric­ity, use it, and charge a lower cost of power for the con­sumers in Baguio and Benguet,

He said ex­plo­ration for other ar­eas is be­ing done.

“At the mo­ment, there are ar­eas we are ex­plor­ing in Tuba and even as far as [the provinces of] Ifu­gao, Kalinga, which are pos­si­ble projects. We are also con­sult­ing with the com­mu­ni­ties for other po­ten­tial hy­dro plants, which our power gen­er­a­tion depart­ment is fo­cus­ing on,” Car­iño said.

Beneco cur­rently sells elec­tric­ity at PHP8.24 per kilo­watthour for con­sumers con­sum­ing 101-kilo­watt hours and above.

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