Ilocos Norte eyes Zero Carbon Footprint & Beyond with Renewables, Organics

Sep 9, 2014



Perhaps fate brought the iconic Bangui Windmills to Ilocos Norte, but the pioneering renewable energy project could well have blazed the trail to the province’s sustainable future with a zero carbon neutrality status.


Despite the presence of the wind turbines which could supply cheap and clean energy, the province’s economy continues to be mostly based on agriculture and fisheries, with manufacturing mostly based on cottage industries (loom weaving, furniture, handicrafts, ceramics, metal craft) and food processing (salt, empanada, bagoong, patis, basi (native Ilocano wine), vinegar, longganisa, chicharon, bagnet, chichacorn or cornick).


EDC wind farms under construction in Burgos, Ilocos Norte


The province’s location at the northwest corner of Luzon makes it ideal for wind power generation but ironically, the power that’s fed to the Luzon grid mostly benefits users outside the province. Hence, the provincial government is not exactly ecstatic over the growing number of wind farms sprouting like mushrooms around its coastlines.


“Wind power has been our lynchpin because we have it as a natural resource,” said Gov. Imee Marcos in an exclusive interview with Cagayan de Oro and Cebu Journalists who recently undertook a familiarization tour of the province. “Unfortunately unlike the extractive industries, the local government and local communities don’t necessarily benefit, so it’s very important to us that corporate social responsibility, the development of supply and value chains, the exploitation first of local resources and compliance with environmental codes be upheld.”  Energy Regulation No. 1-94 stipulates the required assistance to local communities by power developers.


CDO and Cebu Journalists interview Ilocos Norte Gov Imee Marcos (photo courtesy of Alaric Yanos)


Situated just an hour and a half drive from the capital city of Laoag, the Bangui Windmills started with 15 wind turbines in June, 2005 following an extensive wind resource analysis and mapping study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in 1996.


Northwind Power Development Corp. (NWPDC) developed, maintains and operates the project, while Vestas Wind Systems, a Danish firm, supplied the wind turbine-generator units (WTGs) for the site.



The Bangui Bay Project is the first in the Philippines to be awarded an Emissions Reduction Purchase Agreement (ERPA) under the Clean Development Mechanism. It is also the first Philippine recipient of the Carbon Emission Reduction Certificates (CER’s) from the Executive Board of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


In 2006, the project produced a five percent discount of the weighted average price in the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) or a generated savings of approximately USD1.4 million (PhP 70 million) for electricity consumers of the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative (INEC).


Phase II added 5 more wind turbines to raise total capacity to 33MW in 2008, increasing the project’s power contribution to Ilocos Norte from 40 to 50 percent. NWPDC expects to complete Phase III with 6 new wind turbines adding a total of 18 MW installed capacity by year end.  


A closer look at the EDC wind farm under construction in Burgos, Ilocos Norte


The first in Southeast Asia, the $75-million Bangui wind farm has become one of the main sources of electricity as well as a major tourist attraction for Ilocos Norte.


Two other firms are now constructing additional installations: Energy Development Corporation targets 150MWby 2015 in Burgos, and the National Renewable Energy Corp. (formerly UPC Renewables) for 81MW in Pagudpud, one of Ilocos Norte’s major tourism destinations.


Once operational, EDC’s Burgos Wind Project will be the largest wind farm in the Philippines. It is being installed on a 600-hectare site covering three barangays: Saoit, Poblacion and Nagsurot, in Burgos town. 


In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, the country’s largest geothermal producer said it will install an additional 21 wind turbines in the 87-megawatt (MW) wind farm.


“This raises the total project investment cost to $450 million from $300 million, and once fully completed, increases the total generating capacity to 150 MW from 87 MW,” the Lopez-owned EDC said. 


Aside from the wind farm, the BWP also includes a 115 kV transmission line connecting the wind farm from the Burgos substation to the Laoag substation of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), as well as the expansion of the switchyard/substations.


It will augment the Luzon grid’s dependable capacity which needs an additional 4,200 MW in the next ten years due to the projected 4.5 per cent annual increase in electricity demand. It is designed to generate at least 230 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year, enough to supply a million households. It will displace the equivalent of 129,000 tons of carbon emissions or roughly half a million barrels of oil to help mitigate the effects of climate change.


Department of Energy records as of July 31, 2014 show another firm, Energy Logics Phils. of the Delgado Group, has been awarded a service contract for a 120-MW wind power project at Pasuquin East. The firm plans to put up wind farms that can generate a total 420 MW over the next seven years, and a solar power portfolio that can produce more than 250 MW in additional capacity.


Wind power in the Philippines makes up a small percentage of the total energy output of the Philippines. The country’s wind energy sector has significant potential and could provide up to 76GW of power.


The approval of these RE projects is to fulfill the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 which mandates that the government develop the country’s renewable energy resources to promote a shift to more sustainable, reliable and affordable energy.


The approved RE developers are now aggressively pursuing the construction of their projects to benefit from the feed-in-tariff (FiT) rates put in place by the DOE. FiT rates are guaranteed fixed prices for RE energy applicable for 20 years that assure the RE developers they will earn and recover their expenses.


Engr. Ernesto B. Pantangco, EDC executive vice president and vice chairman (private sector) for the National Renewable Energy Board, said investor interest in the Ilocos Norte wind power projects are driven by expected shortfall in electricity supply in Luzon over the next few years.


The DOE estimates electricity demand in Luzon grid would increase at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 4.13 percent, to 10,693 MW in 2020 and will increase further to 16,477 MW in 2030.


Besides committed power projects, the grid still needs an additional 8,100 MW (6,000 MW baseload and 2,100 MW peaking) to meet the electricity demand and the required reserve margin of the grid. A total of 869 MW committed projects are expected for commissioning this year until 2015. Of these, 113 MW will be from renewable energy.


“However, we still need the FiT rates to make the projects viable,” Mr. Pantangco added. The current Feed-in Tariff rate approved by the Energy Regulatory Board (ERC) for wind power projects has been set at P8.53 per kilowatt hour (kWh) and P9.68 for solar.


“Lately the weather pattern has returned to the Pacific and middle area of the archipelago,” Gov. Marcos noted. “The wind people have been studying it and sabi nila that’s the kind of wind that they need and secondly I think there’s a lot of financing available for renewable energy.”


BWM Editor-at-Large Mike Baños interviews Ilocos Norte Gov Imee Marcos at the Governor's office in Laoag City


“I think their opening investment was at US$300-million and that’s times three now, tatlo na yan. And there are four more approved but we’re also hopefully opening up the solar shortly and  we’ve now activated a small hydro for 2 MW.”


The province’s first solar power plant is being installed by Korea’s Mirae Asia Energy Corp in Currimao for 20MW. A bigger 50MW solar power project of Energy Logics Philippines, Inc. is being planned for Pasuquin and Burgos . Currimao is ideal for solar power because of its extended dry season which extends up to nine months every year.


Ilocos Norte could finally start benefitting from all the clean energy it is producing and exporting to the rest of Luzon if its nascent Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry takes off as expected.


Cited as the Best in Infrastructure in the 2012 Next Wave Cities Report, the capital city of Laoag is positioning itself as a viable alternative BPO hub to Metro Manila and Cebu.


“The real product of Ilocos Norte is its people, with its spirit of intrepidness and entrepreneurship, one that lends itself to ICT and the exciting new world of digital media. Our abundance of talent in Ilocos Norte can held drive the BPO and service industries to new heights,” Gov. Marcos said during the Laoag leg of the Next Wave Cities ICT Road Show. “Next to talent, our infrastructure is a source of pride for us Ilokanos; we have quality roads, an international airport and container port as well quality telecommunications connectivity.”



Expert Global Solutions (EGS), the first major contact center provider in Laoag, expects to hire 500 call center agents for its new facility.


“We are very excited for our expansion in Northern Luzon. Laoag City is known as a first class city, which serves as the commercial and business hub of Ilocos Norte,” said Bong Borja, president and country head for EGS Philippines. “We are also confident that the city has pool of highly qualified talents, which is one of the biggest deciding factors why we want to bring and grow our business in Laoag,” he said.


EGS is the holding company for two global leaders in BPO: NCO Financial Systems, which specializes in accounts receivable management, and APAC Customer Services, which concentrates on customer relationship management.


Ms. Emmy Lou V. Delin, NWC program manager, DOST-ICT Office, is confident Metro Laoag can support more than 15,000 full time employees in the BPO industry by 2016.


But the construction boom brought by the RE projects in the province hasn’t been without its issues.


“We’ve been having so much trouble with that because it’s all in the beach and daming nasisirang corals and it’s very, very difficult to work with some of these large corporations because they’re immensely powerful, they go straight to Manila and the local concerns are overturned,” Gov. Marcos said. “It’s really been an issue but there’s so much money being thrown at renewables and a lot of them are here.”


With the Bangui windmill farms and the soon Currimao solar park, Ilocos Norte will soon generate 50 percent of its power requirement from clean energy. The province’s local energy needs is provided by the INEC whose service area covers the whole of Ilocos Norte which is composed of 2 cities, 21 municipalities and 557 barangays with 135,019 households as of 31 December 2010.


Bangui Wind Farm


“It’s really important for us because we like to maintain in Ilocos Norte, we’re beyond clean and green and towards zero carbon footprint. I think we’re beyond zero now,” Gov. Marcos said.


“We also like to limit our food miles, meaning that we grow food everywhere. Every Ilokano has malunggay and saluyot in his kitchen garden,” she added. “This is important for us that we eat fresh food and everything’s grown in the premises. Our goal is to be organic 50 percent shortly.”


Indeed, carbon neutrality and beyond appears to be well in hand in Ilocos Norte.


The Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific Air flies daily from Manila to Laoag for the lowest year round fare of PhP 1,509.00. Book now through +(632) 702-0888, (032) 230-888 or The latest seat sales can also be found on CEB’s official Facebook and Twitter pages.



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