Following the passing of the Power Reform bill, Philippines’ Energy Secretary, Vincent Perez, used last weekend’s state visit to Singapore as a platform for encouraging outside investment in his country’s renewable energy sector. In a presentation to Singapore businessmen, he highlighted investment opportunities in geothermal and wind power to generate electricity.

Perez, was is among a 50-member delegation accompanying President Gloria Arroyo to Singapore and sought help from investors to harness the country’s destructive forces – volcanoes and typhoons – as energy sources. The private sector is expected to play a major role in the financing of future energy projects in the Philippines.

Geothermal power accounts for about 24 per cent of the country’s energy needs with current installed capacity at 1931 MW, making the Philippines the second biggest user of geothermal power after the United States, he said.

There is potential to generate 730 MW more of electricity from 11 prospect areas, said Perez. Philippines, located in the “Ring of Fire” dotted by volcanoes, has huge potential to tap geothermal energy, which is sourced from heat generated in the bowels of the earth.

With the Philippines also located along the Pacific typhoon belt, the country also was aiming to utilize wind power as an energy source, the minister said.

“Philippine wind energy potential could be as much as 70 000 MW,” he told a business forum organised by Singapore’s Keppel Group, a key investor in the Philippines.

A wind farm costing $54m is being built in the northern province of Ilocos Norte from Japanese official development aid, he said. The project involves the installation of 56 units of 750 kW turbine generators in the town of Burgos.

An average of 20 typhoons from the Pacific Ocean strike the Philippines a year. Volcanoes also dot the archipelago of 7100 islands, including Mount Pinatubo whose eruption in 1991 altered weather patterns worldwide for years.

There are also business opportunities for joint natural gas exploration near the offshore Camago-Malampaya field near the western island of Palawan — the country’s biggest natural gas find so far.

The privatisation of the state-run National Power Corp., under the terms of the Power Reform bill passed in June, is another investment area. The reforms include plans to separately offer its transmission and generation facilities. Perez said the operation of power transmission facilities will opened up to bids with the monopoly to be supervised by an energy regulatory body to check abuses.

The generation facilities can be offered in pieces ranging from 250 MW to 1000 MW, he said.

According to Department of Energy statistics, the demand for electricity in the Philippines is expected to grow at an annual rate of 8.9 per cent from 46 262 GWh in 2000 to 99 714 GWh in 2009.