Cordillera power co-ops eye renewable energy to cut rates
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — Power utilities serving the Cordillera are developing renewable energy projects as part of their climate change initiative that will also lower the cost of electricity in the region and improve its economy.
The Federation of Cordillera Electric Cooperatives is proceeding with an arrangement it made two years ago to build a series of mini-hydroelectric plants across the region, said Melchor Licoben, assistant manager of the Benguet Electric Cooperative (Beneco), during a Wednesday press briefing to mark its 50th anniversary.
Licoben said these projects would initially cover the provinces of Ifugao, Benguet, Kalinga, Abra, Apayao, and Mountain Province to reduce the utilities’ dependence on fossil fuels.
Renewable energy is the cheaper alternative to fossil fuels like coal, he said, so Beneco and its counterparts intend to harness major rivers in the region, beginning with a river system flowing through the Kalinga town of Pasil.
Beneco has also asked Congress to lift restrictions imposed by Republic Act No. 9136 (the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001) that allows electric cooperatives to buy and consume only half of the electricity produced by power plants they own.
Licoben said Beneco submitted its appeal to legislators, asking for a review and update of the law that privatized power generation. Beneco had recently commissioned its 3-megawatt mini-hydroelectric facility in Buguias, Benguet.
The project at Man-asok village took five years to complete, and Beneco is securing clearance from the Department of Energy to commercialize its output, said lawyer Delmar Cariño, Beneco’s acting general manager.
Beneco also purchased property in Tuba town, also in Benguet, for a prospective solar farm, Cariño said.
At a June event in Baguio, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the region’s latest medium-term development plan is anchored on the Cordillera’s potential as a “green energy powerhouse,” noting that the region’s mountains serve as the headwaters of 13 Luzon river systems.
Last year, the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) prioritized high-impact energy projects, with Apayao Gov. Elias Bulut Jr., RDC chair, stressing that the Cordillera could supply 3,600 MW of hydroelectricity.