The Province of Negros Occidental is currently undertaking a bold and ambitious initiative that aims to address both the impending climate and energy crises through the development of the Negros Occidental Energy Development Roadmap. Through a series of consultative and participatory activities with all stakeholders, it aims to institutionalize the energy roadmap. Through SecuRE Negros, major stakeholders are made aware and enjoined to learn about the benefits of working towards a renewable, reliable, accessible, affordable, and sustainable energy system for the province.
About SecuRE Negros
SecuRE Negros is not just a campaign. It is a commitment to securing the energy future of Negros Occidental through the transformative power of renewable energy. In the face of impending climate and energy challenges, the Province is taking a bold step towards a sustainable and resilient future. The campaign encapsulates a collective effort to establish a robust and reliable energy system that not only safeguards against power disruptions but also champions the principles of accessibility, affordability, and sustainability.
The gist of SecuRE Negros is encouraging the use of renewable energy sources so that Negros Occidental can ensure a stable power supply for its people. It is also pioneering a model for other regions to emulate. The tagline, “Ensuring Power Security with Renewable Energy,” embodies the core belief that sustainable energy practices are the key to securing the province’s future.
Based on the International Energy Agency’s (2022) basic definition of energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price”, the province of Negros Occidental is still “energy insecure,” given periodic power outages and increasing power rates. Ensuring energy security for the province is not an easy, short-term endeavor, hence the launch of SecuRE Negros. More details below.
About the SecuRE Negros Logo
The SecuRE Negros logo symbolizes Negros Occidental’s unwavering commitment to energy security through supporting the Distributed Energy Systems (DES) or Distributed Energy Resource (DER) models
and the use of renewable energy sources. Each part of the logo is meant to connect with a multi-sectoral
audience because we are all in this together, and we need to work together for an energy-secure future
powered by renewable energy.
Energy Needs of Negros Occidental and Where SecuRE Negros Comes In
Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose “Bong” Lacson acknowledges that “Ensuring energy security for the province is not an easy, short-term endeavor. It requires careful study, strategic planning and implementation, and continuous consultation.”
In this context, as per the directives of Provincial Executive Order No. 21-52, the Negros Occidental Power Sector Assessment Study (NOPSAS) was conducted in 2022 to assess the existing power situation of the province. It also extended to consulting with key stakeholders on concerns, constraints, and issues that they are facing as well as the provision of energy security and proposing recommendations for policy and action.
Methods of Assessment
The primary research method used was focus group discussions (FGDs), supported by document study and key informant interviews.
Chief executives and other officers from 12 generation companies mainly based in the province, a systems engineer from the national transmission company, National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), board members, managers, and department heads of the 3 distribution utilities in the province (CENECO, NOCECO, NONECO), and business owners and consumers’ group leaders as well as academics from 12 different electricity-consuming organizations and institutions attended the FGDs. Officers from the Department of Energy – Visayas and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) were also interviewed and conducted FGDs with, respectively.
As of June 2022, Negros Occidental had a total installed renewable energy capacity of 510.10
megawatts (MW), with a dependable capacity of 379.9MW. The highest peak demand for 2022 was
330.63MW, which occurred in May 2022.
These are produced by 16 power plants in the province consisting of 6 Biomass, 8 Solar, and 1 Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) plants. This leaves at least 49.27MW of excess dependable renewable energy capacity, excluding 25.9MW of dependable oil-based (bunker/diesel fuel) capacity at a power plant in Bago City. When combined, these amount to a total excess dependable energy capacity of 75.17MW at maximum peak load in Negros Occidental.
However, Negros Occidental continues to experience power outages and increasing power rates,
because it does not directly consume the power that it produces.
What Happens to the Excess Renewable Energy
The power generated goes through the national, centralized power grid system, mixed with other fuels (coal-based, diesel, etc.), then transmitted through the sub-grids connected to the 121 electric cooperatives, 24 private investor-owned utilities (PIOUs), and 37 retail electricity suppliers in the Philippines. Afterward, the generated energy is then distributed to end-users.
Negros Occidental transmits the power it produces and receives power back from other producers through the national transmission network’s Cebu-Negros (2 x 90MW) and the Negros-Pansy (1 x 180MW) sub-grids.
As of October 24, 2022, NGCP’s Cebu-Negros-Pansy 230kV Project, aimed to establish the power highway for various renewable energy generated in the region, was still 98.43% completed for Stage 1, 94.63% completed for Stage 2, and 86.88% completed for Stage 3.
Stage 1 involves the Negros-Cebu interconnection phase and is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. Meanwhile, Stage 2 involves the upgrading of the transmission system in Cebu with no specific completion deadline. Finally, Stage 3 involves the delivery of excess power from Panay and Negros to Cebu, expected to be completed by June 2023.
Challenges in the Buying and Selling of Energy
Generation companies sell the power they produce at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) or through bilateral contracts with private companies and distribution utilities. Distribution utilities can also contract with any generation company they choose through a Competitive Selection Process (CSP). This means that the three distribution utilities in the province can contract with generation companies outside the province, which they do, due to cost and other factors.
Several challenges and limitations were raised by the FGD participants which they revealed have been ongoing and long-term concerns for decades.
One of the key challenges for generators was transmission issues; for NGCP as the sole transmission company of the power grid, right-of-way (ROW) issues with landowners; for distribution utilities, regulation and transmission issues; and for end-users, a lack of awareness and understanding of power industry dynamics and having to passively bear the brunt of power outages and increasing power rates, as well as a willingness to avail of solarized rooftop systems if affordable financing was available.
Essentially, although the generation sector has been deregulated through the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), the transmission and distribution sectors remain strictly regulated, which still results in monopolistic or oligopolistic and centralized distribution of power to end-users.
A key insight from the study was that these challenges and constraints were mainly due to the nature
of a century-old and centralized power system the Philippines has been using, and which was originally built to be powered by fossil fuels such as coal and oil. Centralized power systems all over the world have been found to have old equipment, obsolete layouts, outdated engineering, huge operating inefficiencies, and adverse environmental impacts.
Systemic Solution to a Systemic Problem
The study proposes, then, that to improve energy security and to contribute to mitigating climate
change impacts, for the provincial government to consider not just working for improvements
within the current centralized system, but also to pave the way for building a decentralized power
system through a Distributed Energy System (DES) or Distributed Energy Resource (DER) model.
DES or DER models utilize smaller power generation and storage systems to power homes,
businesses, and communities. Most DES or DER systems take advantage of renewable energy
sources to produce power. Energy storage systems like batteries store the energy generated by
intermittent renewable power sources to ensure energy reliability, as well as ease the demand on the
conventional power grid.
Basically, with DER or DES, electric power is produced or consumed locally at or near consumers,
so they become both producers and consumers or “prosumers.” They can be either utility- or
consumer-owned, and can be on-grid, off-grid, or hybrid.
In Negros Occidental, the following DES/DER technologies already exist and which can be
harnessed for an integrated alternative power system: rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems with
intelligent hybrid inverters, solar power, hydropower, waste-to-energy/biomass, energy
storage/battery energy storage system (BESS), community microgrids, and cogeneration/combined
heat power (CHP).
In November 2022, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) approved Resolution No. 11, Series
of 2022, A Resolution Adopting the Rules Governing Distributed Energy Resources (DER), which
provides the legal and regulatory framework and guide to implementing DER in the province.
Among its several recommendations, the study recommends the creation of a Provincial Just Energy
Transition (JET) Council to coordinate and oversee the implementation of a transition to renewable
energy program, guided by a Negros Occidental Energy Development Road Map developed from a
multi-sectoral, consultative strategy, for long-term sustainability and energy security. *