ORMOC CITY – It was beyond imagination that the world’s largest wet steam field straddling in the town of Kananga and this city would sustain a very challenging operation following its humble beginnings 40 years ago.
It was long before a worldwide call against climate change and global warming when the Philippine government initiated a journey of securing long-term plans for renewable energy.
Then PNOC Energy Development Corporation (PNOC EDC) Leyte’s Tongonan geothermal power plant (TGPP) answered the quest for futuristic thinking as it started a challenging exploration in the volcanic steam-rich mountains of Ormoc and Kananga in the early 70’s.
Its early stages can be traced when the Philippine government created the Philippine National Oil Corporation (PNOC) as directed by then President Ferdinand E. Marcos by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 334, “to provide and maintain an adequate and stable supply of oil and petroleum products for domestic requirements”.
With this, explorations commenced to discover indigenous energy sources in the country in response to the global oil crisis during that time. After several years of intensive study works, the Tongonan-1 geothermal power plant was inaugurated on July 02, 1983.
From a rated capacity of 112.5 megawatts (MW), Tongonan-1’s yearly gross energy generation ranged from 200 to 400 gigawatt-hours (GWH), marked by an increase to 600 GWH in the 1990s—a boon during a dark period in the country’s history that was marked by frequent power outages.
The use of indigenous energy sources in the country also increased from a mere 5 percent in 1970 to over 50 percent by 2005, in which the Tongonan geothermal power plant (TGPP) undeniably plays a remarkable role in boosting renewable energy in the Philippines’ energy mix.
First Gen Corporation of the Lopez Group acquired PNOC- EDC through a bidding process in 2007 and gave birth to what is known today as the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), which owns the Leyte geothermal facility.
It has a current base load capacity of 711 megawatts and supplies more than 30% of the country’s installed electricity demand.
EDC’s TGPP makes the country proud for receiving numerous recognitions globally for its four decades of well-maintained, demand-responsive, and sustainable operations, surpassing the usual 25-year life span of geothermal systems.
Currently, TGPP has 31 production wells and nine reinjection wells. Tongonan geothermal field is one of the few geothermal fields worldwide that has achieved a milestone of continued production for 40 years.
EDC’s regenerative strategy and environmental conservation efforts were institutionalized through BINHI, its flagship regreening program seeking to propagate endangered, indigenous tree species in order to protect and grow water reservoirs that are critical to geothermal energy production.
The company also launched in 2009 a parallel program on education by inaugurating a foundation to provide technical training (tech-voc) skills to poor but deserving out-of-school youths from its host areas for free.
The KEITECH Foundation, Inc. (KEITECH) has been producing employable workers since 2009 in the fields of construction, metals and engineering, and tourism and hospitality.
Prior to KEITECH, the company adopted and supported two primary and intermediate schools of the Department of Education, particularly from its host barangays of Tongonan, Kananga and Ormoc called ‘schools for excellence’ which provided instructional materials, school supplies, uniforms, and lunch until the launching of the foundation.
At present, several KEITECH beneficiaries are already good earners locally and abroad who also have granted their wishes of extending financial help to their respective families.
For now, EDC has opened new opportunities to the poor out-of-school youth through its SIKAT program, a 4-year college scholarship to the most deserving students in its partner communities.
The program started in 2005 with 5 scholars every year until we shifted to careers/ Sikat in 2011 with 30 students currently enrolled.
There were also several livelihood assistance programs extended to its host local government units.
And during disasters such as Super Typhoon ‘Yolanda’ in 2013 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Tongonan served as a reliable home base for EDC’s community support and disaster relief operations.
On its 40th anniversary this year, Tongonan continues to bring distinction to the Philippines as one of the few existing geothermal fields in the world.
Tongonan is the world’s 3rd largest geothermal producer as its Tongonan facility continually provides a reliable supply of clean power to the Luzon and Visayas regions for over four decades now.
(ELVIE ROMAN ROA)