‘PH can rely on renewable energy as stable power source’

Petilla says the Philippines can rely on renewable energy in the face of fluctuating global oil prices and threats to energy security
HARVESTING SUNLIGHT. This is how the San Carlos Solar Farm will look like when its first phase is completed in March 2014. Photo from San Carlos Solar Energy Incorporated

MANILA, Philippines – With fluctuating fuel prices in the global market, the Department of Energy (DOE) is pushing for renewable energy (RE) to make up a significant portion of the Philippines’ energy mix.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said the Philippines can rely on RE for a stable source of energy whenever oil prices go up or if there is a shortage in supply in the global market.

“Because RE is indigenous, which means it is locally available, we can depend on it for energy security even if there are political issues such as war in other countries,” Petilla added.

Aside from providing a secure energy source, Petilla also cited its benefit to the environment.

“In addition to contributing to our energy sources which ultimately translates to energy security, utilizing RE is needed for environmental reasons. Since it is clean energy, harnessing RE can cushion the effects of climate change,” Petilla said.

The Philippine is harnessing 30% of RE in its energy mix, which is currently dominated by coal and diesel. The country also imports 90% of its fuel needs.

Petilla acknowledged that the infrastructure needed to utilize RE is expensive, but he added that the benefits – especially to private citizens – outweigh the costs.

“The equipment only entails one-time cost, not repeated costs. Also, private citizens can actually benefit more for own-use of RE such as solar, wind and biomass in self-generation of electricity for their own use,” he said.

He explained that private users can stand to save up to P3 per kilowatt hour (kWh) by using solar panels installed on rooftops.

While the cost of electricity from a coal plant can amount to P12.00 per kilowatt hour (kWh), including costs for distribution and transmission, using solar panels can run to about P9.00 per kWh for generation, with no costs for distribution or transmission.

To promote the use of RE and attract new investments, the government is touting the feed-in-tariff (FIT) system.

FIT is designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technologies by offering long-term contracts to renewable energy producers.

FIT rates are guaranteed premium rates paid for electricity fed into the grid from RE producers.

Approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission in July 2012, the FIT rates in the Philippines are considered one of the lowest in the world.

The DOE is pushing to increase the installation target for solar energy from 50 to 500 megawatts and put RE on a more prominent role in the country’s energy mix.

“The FIT is a testament that while RE seems to be more expensive than traditional energy sources, admittedly, it is needed because it is essential to the country’s energy security,” Petilla said.

“In the long term, we hope to develop systems in order for RE to compete toe-to-toe with traditional energy resources and eventually lower the cost of electricity,” he added.

To continue the push towards sustainable energy in the Philippines, the DOE is working with the Climate Change Commission (CCC) and organizations like Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to improve public perception on RE. – Rappler.com

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