Published March 1, 2017, 10:00 PM By Myrna M. Velasco
On its being fond of “dreaming the impossible dream”, the Department of Energy (DOE) has indicated in a press statement that it is targeting the power interconnection of Sabah in Malaysia to the off-grid system of Palawan in the Philippines.
It is a proposal that DOE Assistant Secretary Leonido J. Pulido III has helped put forward in the recent strategic planning of the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) cluster discussion on power and energy.
It was also reinforced as a power connectivity proposition of the Philippines in the BIMP-EAGA Business Council (BEBC), with the DOE noting that a memorandum of understanding (MOU) is set to be signed April this year on purported realization of the power link-up project.
The missing pieces of the puzzle on this proposal, however, are the cost of interconnecting the power systems and how ready the Palawan consumers are at shouldering that eventual financial burden; and how viable it can be to link up electricity systems of two regional networks that may traverse “conflict areas” in the South China Sea.
“It will provide the needed capacity addition to the country,” Pulido said, but no data for now up to what extent of capacity Sabah can share given the very tight government control that is still exercised in Malaysia’s power sector. Palawan, being on island mode, is also not in need of humongous capacity unless it will be connected eventually to the country’s main power grid.
Infrastructure-linked ASEAN Power Grid (APG) has long been in the plans of the Southeast Asian region, but physical as well as cost-impacting interconnection to the Philippines had always been acknowledged as hurdle.
Beyond the starry-eyed goal of the Palawan-Sabah power link-up, Pulido noted that the key output of the cluster meeting delves with the formulation of the nine-year Power and Energy Infrastructure Cluster (PEIC) Roadmap for the different sub-sectors. This shall cover the 2017 to 2025 planning stretch.
The segments to be covered in the plan would include power interconnection, renewable energy, rural electrification and sub-regional energy efficiency and conservation measures.
The energy and power cluster roadmap, it was emphasized, shall then be set as rolling pipeline project and an input to the final BIMP-EAGA Vision 2017-2025.
Pulido reckoned that the thematic discussions at the BIMP-EAGA energy cluster are also aligned with the 8-point agenda that the Philippine DOE has been pushing for.
He further noted “the need to strengthen the resiliency of energy infrastructures in the sub-region,” while also acknowledging Brunei’s proposal on renewable energy assessment “for each country intending to identify feedstock as fuel for a proposed biomass generating facility project.”