May 23, 2021
The experts served as resource speakers and frame the discussion during the Strategic Planning of the Energy Subcluster of The Climate Reality Project Philippines last 15 May 2021, which was participated in by Filipino Climate Reality Leaders who are interested to help shape the country’s energy transition agenda.
“My answer is definitely yes,” energy transition advisor Alberto Dalusung III said when asked whether the Philippines can be powered by renewables alone. He noted that the transition to renewable energy would mean harnessing different renewable energy sources, as well as utilizing several technologies that will ensure the provision of 24-hour power.
“We just need a grid that has the ability to have all of these technologies dispatched properly. Intermittency is not a problem at all assuming you’ve got a properly designed grid with flexibility,” he explained.
Dalusung is currently a member of the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB), where he represents renewable energy developers. He noted that the 2020-2040 National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) specifically aims to increase the total share of renewable energy in the country’s supply mix by 35 percent by 2030–a target that the Department of Energy (DOE) has already accepted. The current renewable energy share in the supply mix is at 21 percent.
The DOE, however, has not decided yet on how the 35 percent target will be reached, specifically on whether it will follow the recommendation of NREB to keep renewable portfolio standards (RPS) at 1 percent level for 2020 to 2022 and then increased to 2.52 percent moving forward, Dalusung shared.
Climate Reality Leader and energy finance expert Sara Jane Ahmed, Finance Advisor of the Vulnerable Group of Twenty Ministers of Finance of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, agreed with Dalusung that the transition to fully renewables is doable.
“There is enough technology and software out there to actually give you a forecast of when the asset would be generating. This isn’t difficult to integrate, which is why we’re seeing markets like Costa Rica, for example, where they have 100 percent renewable energy. So certainly feasible. Technology and software make it feasible,” Ahmed said.
Atty. Pete Maniego, Climate Reality Leader and former NREB Chairperson, highlighted the need to shift to flexible, distributed, and decentralized renewable energy generation to address stability and supply concerns. He also noted the declining cost of batteries, which will address variability issues.
“In some countries now, their problem is how to utilize excess renewables. For example, in Germany, there are times they have too much renewables so they have to pay consumers to get the power. At the same time, they are exploring “Power-to-X” that is converting excess renewable—for example, using it for electrolysis to get hydrogen per water and storing hydrogen. So these are the long-term future energy trends, where all renewables can be tapped and no need for fossil fuel,” Maniego said.
Aside from the viability of transitioning to fully renewable, experts also discussed the need to harness liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a transition energy source in the country.
Maniego emphasized that the use of LNG is just a bridge to going fully renewable. “There should be an end to the bridge. We will need it probably until the cost of battery really drops to very low levels and we have enough pumped hydro developed to store [excess renewable energy]. Until we have so many distributed renewable energy, like wind and solar, we will need a transition fuel,” he said.
“Natural gas makes a lot of sense in some parts of the country. I, for one, have always championed the use of natural gas, for example, in the Mindanao grid, because of the need to support hydro in Mindanao which declines in the summer season,” Dalusung said.
“But we are not talking of natural gas replacing coal,” he warned, explaining that combined-cycle gas turbines (CCGTs) will just be stranded assets in the future together with coal-fired power plants. “If it is CCGT, it is not the kind of power plant that we need,” he added.
Ahmed said that if private companies will continue to invest in CCGTs, they should be willing to take the stranded asset risk equitably rather than passing them on to consumers. “No longer should that volatility shift to consumers. They should be open to curtailment if they are deemed uncompetitive. This is something we should champion—the equitable risk-sharing part of new energy capacity, especially on CCGT plans on the pipeline,” she said.
In relation to this, Nazrin Castro, Manager of the Philippine Branch of the Climate Reality Project, said that they will mobilize Batangas-based Climate Reality Leaders to conduct a survey that will help gauge the sentiments of residents on the development of CCGTs and interim offshore LNG terminals in the province.
The said survey will complement the upcoming energy transition research of the Branch that is intended to generate clear information on opportunities and options to access cheaper, reliable, and domestically sourced energy.