Biomass energy in the Philippines: What you need to know

The country has 18 biomass power plants with the capacity to power 300,000 homes. Two of the power plants are fired by bagasse which are residues of sugarcane, and are located in Negros Occidental under the Universal Robina Corp. (URC) and Victorias Milling Inc (VMC).

But what exactly is biomass energy and exactly how does this benefit the Philippines?

Biomass energy is produced by burning organic materials in order to produce energy. These organic materials include animal and plant waste, forest debris, scrap lumber and other living organisms.

The Philippines has 40% of its population engaged in the agricultural industry. The country’s main products include coconuts, rice, maize and sugarcane.

These agricultural products spring about 13.01 million tons of biomass, with 4.7 million tons from coconut shells, 3.25 million tons from rice husks, 1.62 million tons from maizecobs, and 3.44 million tons from bagasse or strained sugarcane leaves annually.

“What is great about biomass fuel from energy stored in agricultural waste is that it always available, adds value to farm crops, and is carbon neutral,” Former Senator Miguel Zubiri said in an interview.

Biomass energy has a crucial role in the Philippine energy mix, covering up 30% of the 80 million people in the country. Biomass is usually used for household cooking by the rural poor.

Currently, Luzon sources 81 megawatts (MW) from biomass energy, Visayas has 136 MW, while Mindanao has 24 MW.

The two biomass power plants have a combined  installed capacity of 80 MW – URC with 46 MW, and WMC with 34 MW.

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced that at least four biomass power plants are set to be built in Luzon within three years. According to DOE, these four power plants are either ready for construction or have completed their financing deals.

These plants include a 20 MW waste-to-energy project of CJ Global Green Energy Philippines Corp, the 2 MW ACNPC WTE biomass power plant of Asian Carbon Neutral Corp., the 12 MW rice husk-fired biomass power plant of Grass Gold Renewable Energy Corp., and a 12 MW napier grass-fired biomass power plant project of Clean Green Energy Corp.