By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor

Its steady growth over the past few years is propelling the Philippine geothermal industry to soon become the fourth largest in the world.

The high ranking will be attained within the next decade, according to an industry report by Fitch Solutions Country Risk and Industry Research, a copy of which was released to local media.

The Philippines is one of the world’s geothermal “outperformers” possessing high levels of installed geothermal capacity, according to Fitch Solutions.

The report said, “By 2029, we expect that the Philippines will have the fourth largest installed geothermal capacity in the world.”

Fitch Solutions based its projected growth outlook on the country’s present 12 percent share of geothermal energy, excluding hydropower.

However, the company said, “a high level of existing geothermal capacity means that the geothermal power will supply just over 70 percent of the total renewable electricity generation during this time.”

Indonesia, the US, and Turkey are the world’s top three geothermal producers and are expected to retain their positions in the foreseeable future.

But while the Philippines is rising in world rankings in the production of the clean source of energy, it is not without its share of challenges.

One major hurdle is that private companies are having a hard time pursuing “numerous” underdeveloped geothermal energy sources because of the “high risk and capital intensive nature of exploring and developing these areas and the absence of guaranteed rate under the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) System,” according to the National Geothermal Association of the Philippines (NGAP).

The country is set to hike its geothermal capacity to 2,098 megawatts (MW) capacity in the next decade, adding 170MW to current capacity.

NGAP said the increase “will come mostly from the country’s strong existing geothermal capacity and forecast limited growth in the renewables sector.”

Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi welcomed the Fitch Solution report.

Said Cusi: “Proven na natin etong geothermal. Let’s go for it and regain our previous global standing as one of the top countries in geothermal development.”

Cusi said the Energy department is preparing an order to bolster geothermal development.

The Energy Development Corp. (EDC), controlled by the Lopez family of ABS-CBN fame, expressed its support for the Energy department’s initiative.

In a statement, the EDC said that prioritizing renewables will “help the economy attract more companies and investors who are making the pivot toward sustainable and green practices in their business operations.”

EDC is considered the country’s leading geothermal energy developer.

According to Marvin Bailon, EDC head of business development, trading and marketing, there has been an observable rise in retail electricity market customers who subscribe to geothermal energy in recent years.

The Philippines’ rise to the fourth spot among the world’s suppliers is nothing new. It actually represents a rebound in the country’s fortunes.

In the early 2010s, the Philippines was actually the world’s second in the production of the clean energy but lost its focus in geothermal in favor of other renewable energy sources. Also, few developers were interested in investing in geothermal energy.

On the plus side, geothermal energy does not suffer from the same cost fluctuations experienced by oil and gas prices.

Use of geothermal power results in substantial savings on heating, ranging from 30 percent to 60 percent. There are also large savings when geothermal energy is used for cooling, ranging from 25 percent to 50 percent.