Of the countries in the ASEAN region, the Philippines posts the highest renewable energy (RE) use in its generation mix, as reported by Manila Bulletin. According to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, RE represented 33 percent of the country’s total primary energy supply in 2019. RE sources cover hydro, geothermal, solar, and biofuels.
To ensure that the Philippines will stay on track with its targets, the Department of Energy (DOE) will be assessing its policies in relation to increasing the use of RE.
President Duterte, in his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA), mentioned the use of solar energy, as he promised prioritizing what the education sector needs, especially the “last mile schools,” as cited in this Philstar report. Informal, often makeshift, learning centers that don’t have electricity will be provided energy supply through satellite, maintained by means of solar panels, he promised.
Tapping Solar Sources
Scattered all over the country, solar power plants are located in different provincial cities, including San Carlos in Negros Occidental, Calatagan in Batangas, Toledo in Cebu, and Palo in Leyte. Likewise, there are solar farms in Central Technopark in Tarlac City, Rosario and General Trias in Cavite, and Mabalacat in Pampanga.
Recognized as the leading power plants in Southeast Asia by solar industry leader Solarplaza International, these power structures have a massive capacity ranging from 20 megawatts to 130. According to safe estimates, a 100-megawatt solar farm can supply energy to over 15,000 households.
Solar energy provides a range of benefits for many communities. It provides power to far-flung residential areas, not reached by private power distribution companies. Urban areas, meanwhile, experience savings on their monthly electricity bills.
Environmentally-friendly, the use of clean energy reduces carbon emissions and contributes to climate change mitigation efforts.
Prompting Increase in Share
The Renewable Energy Law proved to be a good stimulus for promoting solar energy in the country. According to the earlier mentioned Manila Bulletin report, since the enactment of the law in 2008, the DOE cornered over 400 RE service contracts. These projects could produce up to 20,000 megawatts of capacity, adding an eight percent share in the energy supply of the country.
For companies using RE, the financial benefits of income tax holidays, duty-free importation of equipment, and tax exemption on carbon credits are most attractive. For consumers, it’s the net metering system, which gives them paybacks from distribution utilities for excess energy. With rising energy costs amid the coronavirus pandemic, more are inclined to turn to solar energy, as cited in this report from Eco Business.
There are over 3,000 registered net metering customers in the Philippines, as of December 2019. The number is expected to climb in the next months and years post-pandemic.
Aside from the legislation, real estate developers have been contributing to the promotion of solar energy among communities.
According to the Eco Business report, property developer Imperial Homes has been providing solar technologies in the communities they build. In fact, they called on energy regulators and government agencies to offer promising incentives for households adopting solar technologies.
Experts are positive that the country can achieve its target of pulling up the RE share in the generation mix. Solar will be leading the change. For AC Energy president and chief executive officer Eric Francia, solar’s share on incremental RE will go up to 15.9 gigawatts or 75 percent of installed capacity, a total of 50 percent of RE output in 2030, as cited in this report from Philippine News Agency (PNA).
The key to achieving the goal, according to Francia, is better policies, such as integrating RE expansion with the Transmission Development plan, improving land conversion process, and carrying out benchmarks and policies.
The DOE itself identified these key elements. According to the Manila Bulletin report, the government plans to promote several programs that give incentives to capital flow in the RE industry. This includes the Green Energy Auction Program, which emphasizes the implementation of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), requiring distribution utilities to obtain a specific percentage of their supply from RE capacities.
Adding to the strategies to increase RE share in the next years, the government would advocate strongly for the Green Energy Option Program, which encourages consumers to get their energy supply directly from preferred RE providers.
Sources: Manila Bulletin, Philstar, Solarplaza International, Eco Business, PNA