More streamlined policies and strategies needed to achieve PH RE goals

Quezon City—Increasing the renewable energy share in the Philippine power mix to 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2050 would require policymakers to amend the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, revisit the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), and reinforce the implementation of Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act.

This was emphasized during the Fifth Renewable Energy (RE) Congress with the theme Making the REAL Deal Happen: Renewable Energy for All held at the University of the Philippines Diliman – Institute of Civil Engineering last 12 October 2022.
Organized by the Center for Empowerment, Innovation, and Training on Renewable Energy (CentRE) and Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung with The Climate Reality Project Philippines and other partners, the Congress convened energy advocates to discuss how RE can be integrated into the energy security roadmap of the Philippines. 
“With the right policies and strategies, and the collective efforts and commitment of all stakeholders, civil and international development organizations, challenges can be addressed, and our energy goals can be attained,” Gaspar Escobar, Jr., Division Chief of the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB), said during the Congress.

Recalibrating policies and programs toward just energy transition

The National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) 2020-2040 declares the need for an energy transition, which Escobar, Jr. defined as the paradigm shift from fossil-based to cleaner, more sustainable, and carbon-neutral energy systems. This requires the energy sector to have an additional 52,826 GW of new renewable energy installed capacity in the next 20 years.

Recognizing the role of the Department of Energy (DOE) to provide policies and directions to the sector, Escobar, Jr. presented the revitalized framework of NREP 2020-2040, which consists of (1) Renewable Energy Transition Pathway: identifying policies and programs that will establish the robust demand and market for renewable energy; (2) Renewable Energy Transition Enablers: creating an enabling environment for renewable energy investments and empowering local communities; (3) Renewable Energy Off-Grid and PURE strategies: enhancing quality of life in rural communities and off-grid areas through the use of renewable energy; and (4) and Resource-Specific Programs: promoting and developing specific renewable energy technologies and resources.

Escobar, Jr. added that the DOE is now preparing to amend the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Renewable Energy Act to boost investments in the sector.

“Ownership restrictions that hamper the flow of investments in the renewable energy sector may now be relaxed such that exploration, development, and utilization of exhaustible RE resources are not subject to the 40% of foreign equity limit as provided in our constitution,” he explained. 

Wilson Fortaleza, the Vice President of CentRE, expressed his call to restructure EPIRA so that implementation can transpose to profit, people, and the planet.

“The actors in the energy industry have aggregated, concentrated, grouped into entities while forgetting about the other goals of universal access, the goal of affordability, the goal for the environment,” he added. 

Energy poverty in the Philippines

Maria Teresa Diokno of the Women in Inclusive and Sustainable Energy highlighted that the inflation rate of electricity for areas outside Metro Manila as of July 2022 was 20%. Meanwhile, only 30-40% of households in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) have access to electricity. She highlighted how high electricity costs are widening energy poverty that perpetuates deprivation among marginalized groups. 

Sarina Narida, the Communications Specialist at One Renewable Energy Enterprise, Inc., said that women as part of the marginalized sector experience the brunt effects of inaccessibility to energy.

“Women don’t have to be just the benefactors. We can be partners. We all have our roles, but we also have our contributions that we can do to make and even lead the energy transition,” Narida added. 

Diokno and Narida believed that addressing energy poverty means giving space for vulnerable groups such as women and those who belong to the lower end of the income streams to cast their stories and needs.

RE benefits in the agri-fisheries and transport sectors 

The Congress also underscored renewable energy technologies and their productive use in the agri-fisheries and transport sectors.

Aira Camille Turla, the Associate for Research and Development at CentRE, cited innovations addressing the problems encountered by farmers and fisherfolk.

One is the solar photovoltaic project of San Andres Aquaculture Corporation which reduced electricity costs, grid-power consumption, waste, and carbon footprint. Covering 20% of the energy demand, consumers saved as much as PhP3.00 per kW and avoided 867 tons of C02 emissions.

Turla also cited the Mapecon Green Charcoal Philippine Inc., which converts wastes from farms, markers, and households into fuel, fertilizer, and feed. She also mentioned Hatchicks Corporation which utilizes RE to power hatching system devices, power tubes that generate light for fisherfolks at night, and REcool smart box that can maintain fish container temperature at below 10°C.

“RE not only benefitted them [farmers and fisherfolks] economically but also socially and environmentally. They were able to cut costs, reduce grid consumption, and reduce waste generation. This is our hope for the agri-fisheries sector—a more efficient, consistent, and more reliable source of energy,” Turla concluded.

Discussing renewable energy in the transport sector, Irvin Boncacas of Sentro-POWER, highlighted the need to adopt RE-powered electric vehicles to replace fossil fuel-powered public utility jeepneys. He, however, emphasized that the government must shift the lens from solely phasing out old jeepney models to supporting local industry, collaborating for battery research, and providing financial assistance to electric cooperatives. 

The future is renewable

Citing the impacts of the Renewable Energy Act, Sharon Montaner, Director at the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), noted that the law has resulted in 2,699.79 MW grid capacity added, 189,023 green jobs created, and 25.973 million tons of greenhouse gases reduced.

According to Escobar, Jr., as of June 2022, there are 998 renewable energy contracts with an aggregate installed capacity of 5,460 MW and a potential capacity of 61,613.81 MW that has been awarded by DOE. This generated an amount of USD4.6 million or PhP270.8 billion worth of investments for the Philippines.

The Congress concluded with the “Sealing of the Renewable Energy for All (REAL) deal” as advocates from the academe, energy industry, transport sector, women groups, and youth sector signed the “REAL deal” mural. The commitment signing symbolizes the call for people-centered, just, and sustainable transformation in the power sector that would benefit all Filipino electric power end-users and remote areas that needs electrification.