Biomass Power Plants to Benefit Sugar Industry

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Maranon, Jr. expressed optimism that, aside from creating local jobs, the biomass power plants in Negros will benefit not only the country but also the global sugar industry.


GROUNDBREAKING. Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Jr. leads the ground breaking of the 25 MW Biomass Power Plant of the North Negros Biopower (NNB) in Manapla yesterday. (L-R) NNB Senior Vice-Pres. for Corporate Communications Don Dia and Chairman Arthur N. Aguilar, ThomasLLoyd Executive Director Anthony Coveney and Chairman Michael Sieg, Manapla Mayor Lourdes Escalante, Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva, landowner Dr. Esteban Lacson III, NNB President Ramon Picornell and International Finance Corporation Country Manager Jane Yuan Xu.* (Butch Bacaoco photo)

“I am told that this power plant, together with its sister biomass power plants in San Carlos City and La Carlota City, represents a pioneering venture that will convert the sugarcane trash into renewable energy,” he said during yesterday’s groundbreaking of the 25 megawatt Biomass Power Plant of North Negros Biopower, Inc. in Manapla.

“I am confident that, as this becomes successful here in Negros, the whole sugar industry in the Philippines and throughout the world will benefit from this renewable energy innovation,” added Maranon, who was the guest speaker of the event.

The governor assured the proponents that the provincial government will continue to extend its full support and cooperation for the project.

North Negros BioPower is the third Negros biomass power plant of the Luxembourg-incorporated ThomasLloyd SICAV-SIF–Cleantech Infrastructure Fund, which invests in infrastructure projects in sustainable power generation from renewable energies and associated efficient power transmission in Asia.

With an investment of US$114 million (P5.8 billion), the plant is expected to generate 185 million Kwh of electricity every year, which can supply power to 265,000 people, when it operates by the third quarter of 2020. From construction until commissioning, the project will create 675 new jobs at the plant site, about 4,000 during construction and a further 2,500 in agriculture.

The company’s two other biomass power plants are in San Carlos City, which has a 20 MW capacity, and in La Carlota City, which has a 25 MW capacity.

“When the history of the Philippine sugar industry will be written in the future, this event, together with the two other sister plants, will have to be written as a signal event that will comprise a major innovation in the agricultural side of the sugar industry here in the Philippines,” said Arthur N. Aguilar, chief operating officer of North Negros Biopower.

“Once it is put into commercial operation, it has tremendous replication possibilities not only for the island and the country, but for the other sugar areas in the world. Nowhere else has there been an entrepreneurial capital and vision that has been placed on a project where a plant is so designed to take all the sugarcane trash,” he pointed out.

Aguilar stated that, for the past hundred years, hundreds of thousands of hectares of sugarcane lands in Negros resort to trash burning because the farmers didn’t know what to do with the cane leaves and trash after harvesting.

Negros has one of the highest heat signatures and one of the highest carbon emissions among the islands, only to be exceeded by the forest fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra, he disclosed.

“Our project today will provide a small but very meaningful and commercially sustainable commercial solution to that kind of a problem. To begin with, we have a law, the Clean Air Act, which prohibits the burning in public because it aggravates global warming. Our business solution here will prevent or alleviate global warming, at least here in our island,” Aguilar stressed.

He credited Bronze Oak, the Zabaleta family and local partner-landowner Dr. Esteban Lacson III for putting the project together from conception until project execution, and he singled out ThomasLloyd for bringing in their European expertise and project financing.

“These biomass plants are a perfect example of how the private sector can be a key partner in fighting climate change by providing a clean source of energy and creating sustainable jobs and income for the local community,” said Jane Yuan Xu, country manager of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

She committed that IFC will substantially increase its investments in similar climate-friendly projects in the next couple of years. A member of the World Bank Group, IFC is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries.

ThomasLloyd chairman Michael Sieg emphasized the inter-continental teamwork that transpired in bringing the project to fruition.

“What we have achieved here is a team effort by hundreds of people, all planning, all developing and supporting all that, and by thousands of investors all over Europe which has given their faith on what we call ‘impact investing’ to achieve not only a commercial return on the financial side but as well as create impact both on the ecological side and create social return on the community and in the fields where they are working,” he said.

Accompanying Sieg were about a hundred delegates from Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg who came to witness the ground breaking.

Manapla Mayor Lourdes Escalante welcomed the guests to the event, which marks the second renewable energy project, next to the 48 MW solar farm, in the municipality.

Other notable guests included Second District Rep. Leo Rafael Cueva and Department of Energy Biomass Energy Management Division Chief Ruby de Guzman.*(Butch Bacaoco)

 

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