Philippine Geothermal Future

Aloysius Makalinao
November 22, 2016

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2016


Fig. 1: Energy mix of the Philippines in 2013. [1] (Source: A. Makalinao)

The Philippines is one of the largest producers of geothermal energy, second only to the United States. With 1896 MW of installed capacity, geothermal energy represents 13% of the Philippines' power mix. Looking at Fig. 1, we see that the power mix of the Philippines in 2013 consists of 43% coal, 25% natural gas, 13% geothermal, 13% hydroelectric, and 6% oil. Compared to most countries, the Philippines has a respectable portion of it energy sector powered by geothermal; however, being situated on the Ring of Fire, close to the equator, the Philippines has even more potential for geothermal development. [1] With almost 2511 MW of untapped geothermal potential, there is lots of potential for future developments within the Philippines.

History and Current Status

Geothermal production began in the Philippines in the 1970s. In an effort to gain independence from fluctuating oil prices, the country decided to enlist foreign help to began extracting the abundant heat source underneath the Philippines. [2] As shown in Fig. 2, Philippine geothermal energy is spread among 7 distinct areas - Leyte, MakBan, Tiwi, South Negros, BacMan, Mindanao, and the Northern Negros. [3]

For the most part, large organizations such as the Energy Development Corporation, Chevron Geothermal Philippines Holding, Inc., and the National Power Corporation have solely managed geothermal developments due to the lack of private sector incentives. Up until the early 2000s, renewable energy generation has been slow due to the lack of governmental incentives and policy reforms; however, on 30 January 2009, the Filipino government passed the Republic Act No. 9513 (RE Law). The new law allowed for increased privatization of geothermal energy as well as created fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for all renewable energy sources, including geothermal. [1]

Since the implementation of the RE Law, 42 geothermal contracts have been awarded with some projects already up and running. [1] Due to the recent trends of growth in renewable energy, the Philippine government has projected a doubling of renewable energy capacity by 2030, much of which will come from geothermal energy. [3]

Fig. 2: Installed geothermal energy capacity by region. [3] (Source: A. Makalinao)

Geothermal Barriers

Despite the strong potential for geothermal energy, there are several barriers that prevent immediate implementation. Since the cost of constructing a geothermal energy source is dependent on resource temperature and pressure, reservoir depth and permeability, fluid chemistry, location, drilling market, and size of development, it is hard to estimate total cost upfront. [4] In addition, the upfront capital cost is typically quite high since it is required for the exploration of geothermal wells.

As a new energy alternative, privatized geothermal energy will need to compete with coal and oil. Incumbents within the Filipino economy may try to prolong energy policies that support geothermal energy to prevent large losses.


As a whole, the geothermal potential in the Philippines has the potential to provide a majority of the energy demand of the power grid. Current geothermal technology has began to implement enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) on a much larger scale. With EGS, more economically viable thermal resources will be available throughout the Philippines. [5]

All in all, geothermal energy has the potential to supply a large amount of the Filipino population with stable, low- carbon energy; however, the current energy climate of the Philippines is strongly ruled by the incumbency of coal and oil, which still dominate the energy mix today. Due to the strong influence of incumbents, laws and incentives passed specifically for geothermal energy are not currently being implemented. Although geothermal technology has made significant progress in the past generation, the current political climate of the Philippines and continued uncertainty with the present technology makes it difficult to widely implement at this time. For the future, however, it would be wise for the Philippine government to tap into their vast renewable energy potential more readily.

© Aloysius Makalinao. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] A. Fronda, M. Marasigan, and V. Lazaro, "Geothermal Development in the Philippines: The Country Update," Department of Energy of the Philippines, 19 Apr 15.

[2] A. Alcaraz and M. Ogena, "Geothermal Energy Development - A Boon to Philippine Energy," PNOC Energy Development Corporation, 23 Oct 97

[3] R. Bertani, "Geothermal Power Generation in the World 2005-2010 Update Report," Enel Green Power, 29 Apr 10.

[4] "Renewable Energy Essentials: Geothermal," International Energy Agency, 2010.

[5] R. Jeanloz et al., "Enhanced Geothermal Systems," Mitre Corporation, JSR-13-320, December 2013.