Indonesia’s geothermal reserves have potential to generate 28,994 megawatt of electricity but utilisation has reached only 1,196 MW or a mere four percent of the potential capacity.
The Philippines, which is also an archipelago like Indonesia, has been more advanced in the utilisation of geothermal energy despite having only 14 percent of the world’s total reserves and a much lower potential capacity compared to Indonesia.
However, it has been able to generate 1,904 MW of electricity from its total potential capacity of 6,000 MW.
The Philippines, which has small oil reserves, has developed geothermal power for 20 years prompted by global energy crisis in the 1970s.
“We have oil but the reserve are small unlike Indonesia which is rich in oil and coal,” says Mario C Marasigan, a director at the Philippines Energy Department.
The energy crisis has driven the Philippines to become a pioneer in the utilisation of geothermal energy. It began in 1977 with a pilot project having a 3-MW capacity that later grew to become a huge power plant with a capacity of 791 MW in Leyte.
Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the authority in geothermal power development in the Philippines, accounts for 1,130 MW or 61 percent of the total capacity of geothermal power installations in the country.
Among major geothermal power plants in the Philippines are those in Mindanao with a capacity of 106 MW, Southern Negros (192.5 MW), Bacon-Manito (130 MW), and Tongonan (112.5 MW).
Based on data in February 2013, the Philippines has been able to utilise 14 percent of its geothermal energy potential.
Mario said most geothermal power reserves are located in forest areas and it is necessary to observe forest conservation in developing geothermal reserves.
In the beginning, protests were strong against development of geothermal power plants in forest areas for fear of destruction of the forests, said EDC senior vice president Agnes C De Jesus.
“In fact, in developing geothermal energy we need to protect the forests as the forest is needed to maintain water resources for geothermal purposes,” Agnes said.