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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

PH wants more RE works, survey shows

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Most Filipinos believe it is important for the Philippines to increase the use of renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower, according to a recent Pulse Asia survey commissioned by international think tank Stratbase ADR Institute.

The polling firm released the survey results on Monday during a forum entitled, “Powering the Future: Accelerating Grid Modernization for Energy Security and Sustainable Development”, organized by the Stratbase.

Results showed that 85 percent of the respondents believe in increasing the use of renewable energy sources in the Philippines. Two percent do not think it is important while 13 percent cannot say if they think it is important or not. The survey was conducted from September 10 to 14, 2023 covering 1,200 respondents all over the country.

In a briefing, Energy Undersecretary Sharon Garin said increasing the development and utilization of renewable energy (RE) in the Philippines remains a top priority of the Department of Energy (DOE).

The DOE aims to increase the share of renewable energy in the power generation mix to at least 35 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2040.

“As of 2022, we have a total of 195 operational RE power projects with a total installed capacity of 5.5 GW.  They generated 357,248 green jobs, ranging from short-term engagements for the conduct of studies and construction of RE power plants to long-term employment for their operation and maintenance,” Garin said.

She also said the DOE recognizes the importance of private sector investment in achieving the government’s targets, and has been “creating an enabling business environment to make RE more appealing to investors”.

“In 2022, the DOE provided the Preferential Dispatch of all RE-generating plants to the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). This intends to encourage additional investments in the RE industry because RE power projects will be guaranteed to be dispatched in the grid at their full available capacity, allowing timely recovery of investments. Moreover, the Department took steps to ease foreign ownership restrictions that had previously impeded investments in the RE sector,” she explained.

For his part, Stratbase president Dindo Manhit said the government should work hand-in-hand with the private sector in pursuing a long-term energy exploration and transition objective, and open itself to domestic and foreign investments in infrastructure.

“This includes building more power plants, modernizing the electricity distribution system, expanding transmission networks, and enhancing energy storage. Energy cost and stability are a significant determinant of the level of interest of businesses to set up shop in the country. Investments mean jobs, income, spending power, technology transfer, and, ultimately, economic activity and growth,” he explained.

Manhit emphasized that investment-driven growth will minimize the country’s vulnerability to external developments and enable itself to assure the Filipinos of a better quality of life.

“But this type of growth can only take place with energy security already in place. Thus, it is important that we address costs, stability, accessibility, and reliability of power anywhere in the Philippines at the soonest possible time,” Manhit said.

In her remarks, Garin also underscored the importance of modernizing the grid to ensure the integration and delivery of RE generation in a cost-effective way.

“While there are numerous efforts and initiatives to support the country’s energy transition, unlocking the full potential of RE will require new grid and system management initiatives,” Garin said.

InfraWatch PH convenor Terry Ridon likewise believes there is a need to prioritize the upgrading of the country’s transmission grid to achieve national energy security.

“The ERC should tighten oversight on the completion of these critical infrastructure projects, which would hopefully strengthen the electricity value chain and prevent higher electricity cost for consumers,” Ridon said.

In a special paper he authored, published by the Stratbase, Ridon enumerated various ways to address the critical issues surrounding the Philippine energy grid.

These include ensuring the independence of regulatory agencies, developing clear and specific standards and performance metrics for energy companies to follow, and harsher penalties for non-compliance to these standards.

“Moving forward, the NGCP’s commitment to invest P300 billion in grid improvements is a step in the right direction. However, juxtaposed with the delayed implementation of projects critical to the integration of renewable energy, this figure is not as reassuring as it might initially appear.

“As the country moves toward renewable energy sources, the speed and efficiency with which the NGCP operates will be crucial in determining the success of this transition,” Ridon said.

For Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship secretary-general Felix Vitangcol, upgrading the grid infrastructure to accommodate the increasing penetration of renewable energy would allow it to become “more agile, adaptive, and robust”.

“It will boost economic development and promote a conducive investment-led sustainable environment for businesses and the like.

This then results in job creation and better public services for industries like telecommunication and digital services.

“This will ensure that public services such as communication and connectivity and other basic needs are met. This would also allow as many Filipinos as possible would be given the capacity to access RE even if they are not among the biggest consumers of electricity,” Vitangcol said.

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