THE OUTSIDER (Melandrew T. Velasco): Energizing the provinces

Just before Christmas day, we were greeted with the good news that by January, San Miguel Corporation hopes to complete its 1,000 megawatts capacity Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) network.

In a previous column, I have written about the need for our country to achieve energy security to be able to attract more investments and boost industrialization especially in the countryside.

It is undebatable that being energy-secured will have a transformative impact on the country’s economy and help stabilize power supply.

The use of BESS technology in the country was introduced in 2016 in Masinloc. In 2018, it was procured by San Miguel Corporation. In March this year, SMC inaugurated its BESS in Limay, Bataan. The presence of no less than President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. underscored the importance of the project in the country’s economic development.

BESS refers to an energy storage system that utilizes batteries to store excess energy and distributes the stored energy in the form of electricity.

BESS, undertaken by SMC subsidiary San Miguel Global Power Holdings Corporation, is the first of its kind in the Philippines and considered one of the largest integrated grid-scale battery energy storage projects in the world.

There are 32 facilities nationwide that comprised the BESS network under SMC, 31 of which are in the completion stage.  The network has an aggregate capacity of 1,000 MWh. And according to SMC President and CEO Ramon S. Ang, the number could be increased “if there is a demand.”

For this initiative, SMC has partnered with ABB Philippines, Fluence and Wartsila as its engineering, procurement and construction contractors. Cost of the BESS initiative is around $1 billion.

According to the Department of Energy website, Summary of Committed Projects by plant type as of 31 October 2023 comprised of coal, oil-based, natural gas, renewable energy and energy storage systems. Annual summary of target commercial operation (MW) for BESS is 2,024.00 MW for the period 2023-2028.  Of this number, Luzon accounts for 1,394 MW; Visayas, 370 MW; and Mindanao, 260 MW.

BESS project sites were identified to include Isabela, Cagayan, Tarlac, Laguna, Pampanga, Batangas, Albay, La Union, Pangasinan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Ilocos Norte, Navotas, Quezon, Zambales, Nueva Vizcaya, Camarines, Cavite, and Benguet in Luzon.

In Visayas, sites are in Bohol, Leyte, Iloilo, Cebu, Antique, Samar, Negros Oriental, and Negros Occidental. Meanwhile, Mindanao sites are in Misamis Oriental, Davao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Bukidnon, South Cotabato, and Davao.

Among the benefits of utilizing BESS include: grid stabilization, renewable energy integration, peak shaving, back-up power during power outage, and support for electric vehicle charging.

Utilizing BESS is suitable especially with intermittent renewable energy sources like wind and solar. “With battery energy storage, we can solve the problem with most renewable energy sources, which is intermittence, due to the irregularity or seasonality of solar and wind power sources,” RSA said.  Aside from storing excess energy from renewable sources, it can also store excess energy from traditional sources. “Our facilities can support the integration of over 5,000 MW of renew able power sources into the grid,” he added.

It lessens demand on grid during peak periods and cuts down the demand from plants that are usually dependent on fossil fuels.

The use of BESS is aligned with the goal of addressing the challenge of climate change and global warming as more countries are redirecting their efforts to confront these global environmental realities.

According to RSA, SMC’s ongoing investment into BESS “will greatly benefit power consumers all over the country, because this will mean that even faraway provinces or areas, can have the same stable and good quality power supply as everywhere else.”

More stable power supply in the provinces will be a stimulus for progress. Where no industrial plants would relocate because of poor power quality, the presence of BESS can even support equal-opportunity industrialization in these areas. Further, this will encourage the growing middleclass based in the provinces to invest in projects that can be engines for growth as well as provide employment opportunities to the locals.

“This means that provinces and islands will have better and more equal opportunities for industrialization and economic growth. If previously some areas could not attract investments because of unstable or poor power supply, battery energy storage will make power supply more stable and reliable,” RSA said.

Additionally, the use of battery energy storage system helps in the reduction of energy cost which is essential in revitalizing industries.

As the country continues to strive for economic growth and development, we should be grateful to the private sector participation in creating an environment conducive to the attainment of our goals.

This 2024, let us move forward with determination to achieve our aspiration as a nation.