The Federation of Cordillera Electric Cooperatives is looking into building a series of mini-hydroelectric plants across the region planned two years ago to meet the growing electricity needs with renewable power with lower environmental impact while also generating revenue for the region’s provinces.
According to Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) Assistant Manager Melchor Licoben, these projects would initially cover the provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) to reduce the local utilities’ dependence on fossil fuels, starting with a hydroelectric plant in a river system in Pasil town, Kalinga province.
BENECO itself has meanwhile recently commissioned a three-megawatt hydropower project in Buguias town, Benguet, with the five-year project in Man-asok town in the process of securing clearance from the Department of Energy (DOE) to commercialize its output.
According to Licoben, BENECO has appealed to Congress to modify Republic Act No. 9136 (the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001), specifically to remove the restriction on power generation under the EPIRA where cooperatives that own power plants can only buy and consume half of the output of said plants.
Earlier in May of this year, lawmakers sought to modify the EPIRA to supposedly address increasing power rates in the country, with measures such as limiting entities’ voting shares of stock from 25 percent to 15 percent, which led to opposition from local electric cooperatives fearing that the increased restrictions would lead to lowered interest in private investments.
In addition to the investment in hydroelectric power, the Federation is also looking at alternative renewable energy options, with BENECO purchasing property in Tuba town for use as a solar power farmsite.
Estimates in 2022 by the Cordillera Regional Development Council (RDC) appraised that the region’s waterways could produce as much as 3,600 megawatts of power output if fully harnessed with high-impact development and power infrastructure.