First Gen calls for clear hydropower dev’t policy

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LOPEZ-LED First Gen Corp. (First Gen) is urging the Department of Energy (DoE) to come up with a clear policy on the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) scheme on hydropower development so that the immense potential of this indigenous renewable energy (RE) source can be harnessed for inclusive growth.

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“We’ve been very focused on looking at how we can enable hydro development in the country. But the pronouncement of DoE is unclear to us,” First Gen President and COO Francis Giles B. Puno said in a recent interview.

Under the DoE’s FiT scheme, run-of-river hydro projects have an allocated installation target of 250 megawatts (MW). The FiT system is one of the policy mechanisms provided in the law being implemented by the DoE to encourage the development of the RE industry.

Puno said that since hydropower allocation is not fully taken up, “the whole idea was to be able to construct the hydroelectric plants that we have been developing, and for [these]to be allocated the unutilized portion of the FIT allocations.”

“In the case of hydro, because they are located in remote areas, we think that the government should be promoting that because from an inclusive growth perspective, that’s a very inclusive growth program to support development in remote areas,” Puno said.

Hydro power development takes long “and you have to assure investors that there will be a market for that electricity and so, until that clarification is there, then we’re slowing down what should be an accelerated development. But once it is clear then we will proceed because we have also acquired quite a number of new concessions,” he added.

First Gen’s hydropower plants generally performed well in 2016. In particular, runoff from typhoons Lando and Nona increased power generation by 19.3 percent at the 132-MW Pantabangan-Masiway Hydroelectric Complex, raising its income contribution by $5.1 million to $13.5 million in 2016. The company’s hydro platforms reported a corresponding increase in revenues from $42.4 million in 2015 to $49.1 million in full-year 2016.

First Gen also acquired three new hydro concessions in 2016: the 175-MW Binongan-Tineg in Abra, the 160-MW Cagayan 1N in Bukidnon, and the 17.5-MW Cateel in Davao Oriental.

The company is looking forward to expand its greenfield operations in Mindanao by developing three run-of-river hydroelectric power plants with a combined generation capacity of 95 MW, namely: the 32-MW Bubunawan and 33-MW Tagoloan plants in Bukidnon, and the 30-MW Puyo in Agusan del Norte.

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