Solar power comes of age

By Herbert Vego

WHEN an ordinary entrepreneur sinks huge capitalization into a venture where others fear to tread, kibitzers may say he has gone “suicidal”.

Fortunately, that adjective hardly fits Enrique K. Razon.  Otherwise, how could he have earned the “third richest Filipino” moniker?

But, yes, he has invested in an industry that is not yet competitive because of high operational cost. Yes, he is tapping “solarization” — converting the heat from the sun into electricity – for his next project in collaboration with the fledgling Solar Philippines

As a news story announced, the Razon-led Prime Infrastructure Holdings Inc. (Prime Infra) has sunk an additional two billion pesos (P2 billion) for 340 megawatts of solar farms in the adjoining provinces of Batangas and Cavite.

Including the initial P1.5 billion paid earlier for a 100-megawatt solar farm in Tarlac, the Razon group now owns a 50-percent stake in Solar Philippines, which used to be wholly owned by Leandro Leviste, a son of Rep. Loren Legarda (Antique) and former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste. The need to expand beckons.

The Tarlac and Batangas solar plants, incidentally, enjoy existing power supply agreements with Manila Electric Company (Meralco), thus guaranteeing revenue stream for the Razon-Leviste merger.

The joint venture aims to eventually expand into 800 megawatts (MW) of solar power projects in Luzon and Visayas.

The Razon group is not new in the power sector. Its first power-distribution venture – MORE Electric and Power Corp. (MORE Power) – is the fast-growing power distributor in Iloilo City.

There was a time when MORE Power tapped Aboitiz Renewables (a geothermal energy producer) as one of its power sources through a 10-megawatt contract entered into by MORE Power president Roel Castro and Aboitiz’s Alexander Coo.

Aboitiz, incidentally, is set to embark on a 74-megawatt (MW) solar power facility in Pangasinan this year.

Solar, like geothermal, is highly favored by environmentalists for being clean and renewable.

Most solar power users in the Philippines are public buildings and homes that install solar panels to augment energy passing through distribution utilities. A case in point is the Iloilo City Hall.

Solar panels convert sunshine into electricity. They may also work on reduced intensity after sunset, but only when paired with solar battery storage.

On a retail basis, solar energy costs are higher than the traditional fossil sources such as coal, diesel and gasoline.  Solar cells are expensive because they are made from silicon, which demands a great deal of energy to produce.

Knowing Razon to be a resourceful businessman, I guess his decision to plunge into solar farming could have been influenced by the so-called “economy of scale” as experienced in the United States – which leads to a proportionate saving in costs gained by an increased level of production.

On the day Mr. Razon signed an agreement with Solar Philippines, he said, “Renewables as a stand-alone power source or combined with other forms of power generation and storage are the future of power generation both in terms of reliability and cost.”



ALL the while we had thought time was running out for Rep. Julienne “Jam-Jam” Baronda to push up her bill establishing a city-owned public hospital.  But now it can be told she has done her homework.

Her House Bill 10464 aimed at establishing the Iloilo City Hospital has passed third and final reading.

In a message addressed to her constituents, Jam-Jam wrote:

“The approval of this legislative measure, which we pushed along with Mayor Jerry Treñas, is an early Christmas gift to the Ilonggos. We pray that the counterpart measure in the Senate will also be passed real soon so that the Ilonggos will have easy access to affordable and efficient medical care.”

The Baronda bill gained the nod of 229 out of 300 House members.

Mayor Treñas had earlier suggested the word “Uswag” to be part of the name of the hospital but this was allegedly frowned upon by an Ilonggo representative for being also the name of the new party-list where the mayor’s daughter Raissa is the second nominee; the first nominee is contractor Jojo Ang.



WE have invited former congressman Ferjenel “Ferj” Biron to grace our radio show “Tribuna sang Banwa” on Aksyon Radyo on Sunday, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. The show, also telecast live via Facebook, is hosted by Neri Camiña, with Nermie Barcelona and this writer as co-hosts.

Biron is expected to shed light on the opening of Iloilo City’s world-class private hospital, of which he is the chair of the board. It’s the 200-bed Allied Care Experts (ACE) Medical Center.

If we heard our informant right, however, the hospital’s name has been changed to Asia Pacific Medical Center (APMC).

It aims to provide Ilonggos with modern medical facilities in a multicenter global network. Its mission is to provide patients with immediate and excellent health care.

The prime movers of the project are doctors with various specializations.

Dr. Biron intends to return to politics.  He is a candidate for congressman in the 4th District, a post being held by his son Braeden John, who is running for mayor of Dumangas.