Thursday, April 27, 2017

Renewable Energy in the Philippines: An Overview

by Alan S. Cajes


This paper presents the power situation of the Philippines, including the main sources of energy, the main barriers in promoting new and renewable energy, including the key energy-related policies and programs. It also describes the related policies that have impacts on energy efficiency and conservation.

Current Status of Renewable Energy

The total installed generating capacity of the Philippines in 2014 is 127,944 MW broken down as follows: Oil Based, 3,476 MW; Hydro, 3,453 MW; Geothermal, 1,918 MW; Coal, 5,708 MW; New and Renewable Energy, 437 MW; and Natural Gas, 2,862 MW. In terms of power generation by source (in Gwh), the country has the following data as of 2014: Oil-thermal, 463; diesel, 4,730; gas turbines/CC, 515; hydro, 9,137; geothermal, 10,308; coal, 33,064; other renewable (wind, solar, biomass), 364, and natural gas, 18,690 or a total of 77,261 Gwh.

Issues Related to Renewable Energy

Almost 33 percent of the total installed capacity comes from renewable energy, namely, hydro, geothermal, solar, biomass, and wind power. In the past, the barriers in promoting renewable energy (RE) in the Philippines include the high cost of doing business in the country, the high cost of RE projects, the long period of time needed to recover the investments, limited technical support system (repair and spare parts) for established RE projects, the high cost of using RE power, and the limited capital available for RE projects. Lately, the government has established the feed-in tariff for RE projects. This has resulted in the surging interest to put up RE projects, such as wind, solar, hydro and biomass power. 

Due to the increasing demand for power, however, and the slow process of putting up new power plants, as well as poor maintenance of aging plants, the country experienced rotating power outages, especially in the Mindanao Island, which is highly dependent on hydropower plants. As a result, the government hastened the process of putting up coal-fired power plants in various parts of the country.

Existing Policies and Programs

Republic Act No. 7638 or the Department of Energy Act of 1992, the Department of Energy (DOE) is pursuing a long-term energy security strategy for the adoption of the use of clean, green and sustainable sources of energy.  The country’s long-term national energy plan is directed towards meeting the immediate need for energy while making sure that it will cause least damage to people and the environment.

Notwithstanding the fact that fossil fuels contribute significantly to the country’s energy and electricity needs in view of its reliability, the 60 percent energy self-sufficiency level target of the country aims to harness indigenous energy.  In particular, renewable energy sources like geothermal, wind, biomass, ocean and alternative fuels like biofuels and compressed natural gas (CNG), are seen to augment the country’s energy requirement.

Another key component in the country’s strategy on energy security is the need to minimize demand for energy brought about by the country’s economic growth by taking the lead in increasing public interest on the use of energy-efficient technologies and conservation practices. The launching of the National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Program (NEECP) in August 2004 is an evidence of the energy sector’s commitment to continuously work in the development and promotion of new technologies and the practice of good energy habits in the household, business and transport sector.  In line with the NEECP, the DOE has targeted a 10 percent energy savings on the total annual energy demand.

The enactment of Republic Act No. 9513 or Renewable Energy Act of 2008 establishes the policy and program framework to advance renewable energy (RE) resources and technologies, and increase their utilization.  On June 14, 2011 the Government unveiled the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) or the “Green Energy Roadmap” of the Philippines. The NREP is anchored on the DOE’s Energy Reform Agenda, which aims to ensure greater energy supply security for the country.  It establishes a policy and program framework for the promotion of renewable energy and a roadmap to guide efforts in realizing the market penetration targets of each renewable energy resource in the country.  The NREP lays down the foundation for developing the country's renewable energy resources, stimulating investments in the RE sector, developing technologies, and providing the impetus for national and local renewable energy. 

Under the Renewable Energy Plans and Programs (2011-2030), the long-term goal is to increase the renewable energy (RE)-based power capacity of the Philippines to 15,304 MW by the end of year 2030. This is about 300 percent higher than the 5,438 MW capacity level as of year 2010. On a peer technology basis, the goal is to 1) increase geothermal capacity by 75.0 percent, 2) increase hydropower capacity by 160 percent, 3) deliver additional 277 MW biomass power capacity, 4) attain win power grid parity with the commissioning of 2,345 MW additional capacity, 5) mainstream an additional 284 MW solar power capacity and attain the 1,528 MW aspirational target, and 6) develop the first ocean energy facility for the country.

The Philippines also has a law, Republic Act 9729 or the Climate Change Act of 2009, which is the country’s response to climate change. Towards the attainment of this goal, RA 9729 mainstreams climate change into the formulation of government programs and projects, plans and strategies, and policies, the creation of the Climate Change Commission, and the formulation of the National Framework Strategy on Climate Change (NFSCC).

The NFSCC identified mitigation strategies aimed to facilitate the transition of the country towards low greenhouse gas emissions for sustainable development in the long run. The NFSCC targets include the enhancement of clean energy source, realization of full potential of country’s renewable energy capacity, improvement in efficiency of the transport sector through increased uptake of alternative fuels and expansion of mass transport system, reduction of carbon footprints through energy-efficient design and materials for public infrastructure and settlements, reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and full implementation of proper waste management.

In December 2015, the 21st Session of the Conference of Parties (COP21) in Paris adopted the Paris Agreement that calls for all parties to “pursue efforts to” limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C to be reached during the second half of the 21st century, sometime between 2030 and 2050. The commitments of countries were outlined in actions in the document known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs. Together, the INDCs would reduce global warming from an estimated 4–5 °C (by 2100) to 2.7 °C, and reduce emissions per capita by 9% by 2030, while providing hope for further reductions in the future that would allow meeting a 2 °C target. The Philippines’ INDC commitment is for a reduction in emissions of about 70% by 2030, relative to a business-as-usual scenario. This ambitious target is subject to the availability of financial and technical support coming from donor countries.

Note: This is taken from a Country Paper that the author presented at the "Workshop on Advanced Renewable Energy Technologies and Assessing their Adoption and Application" held on 14–18 May 2016 in Tehran, IR Iran