Guess what country is leading the way in renewable energy

Guess what country is leading the way in renewable energy

- in Feature
@Jon Joaquin

You know how various groups continue to urge government to push renewable energy (RE)? What you probably don’t know is that the Philippines is already one of the top RE countries in the world. A full 32% of our electricity is produced from renewable sources. which is remarkable considering that China’s RE production is only 24% of its total while the US’s figure stands at 14%. It’s true that they produce far more renewable energy than we do (China generates more than a million gigawatts per hour [GWh] while the US produces 590 GWh), but they are also much bigger countries than we are. Besides, our 21,979 GWh RE production is nothing to sneeze at and is enough to put us in 31st place worldwide.

The truth is the Philippines is already a leader in renewable energy. We are rich in a wide variety of RE sources such as hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, and biomass, and we have shown strong commitment in pursuing these energy sources. In fact, the Philippines increased its installed RE generation capacity by 45% in the last decade alone, and by 2030 the total installed capacity will be 40% renewable.

Also, believe it or not, the World Energy Council (WEC) index has placed the Philippines in the number one spot of the most environmentally sustainable countries in the world. In its 2016 Philippine Energy Trilemma Profile in 2016, the WEC based the rating on the country’s low carbon emissions (we emit less than 0.4% of the world’s greenhouse gas) and the amount of investments in renewable energy. It also cited the government’s strong support for the development and use of renewable energy in the country. The Philippine Energy Plan 2012-2030, for example, sets a framework for the development of energy resources in the country, highlighting the role of Renewable Energy and its development following the provisions of the Renewable Energy Law.

Current laws also promote RE, such as Republic Act 9513 or The Renewable Energy Act of 2008 which promotes the development, utilization, and commercialization of renewable energy resources. This law produces incentives to RE producers, including tax holidays, special tax rates, duty-free importation of equipment, and special Feed-in Tariff (FIT) rates. FIT rates are guaranteed electricity rates given to qualified RE producers as an incentive to develop renewable energy technology.

The RE Law also legislated the creation the following:

  • Renewable Portfolio Standard — Minimum percentages of energy generation that must come from renewable energy sources
  • Renewable Energy Market — A market for trading electricity from renewable sources similar to WESM
  • Green Energy Option system — A proposed program that will allow end-users to choose and directly contract renewable energy resources as their sources of energy

But despite the great strides the Philippines has made, renewable energy still has its limitations. For one, it is by nature intermittent because natural factors like weather, season, and location can affect the availability of the energy sources. Scalability is also an issue with RE because some power plants cannot generate large quantities of energy — at least not without investing large amounts in infrastructure and land requirements. And then there is the problem of storage capability: energy from RE sources (save for hydro) cannot be cannot be stored and must thus be consumed right away once generated.

Other issues are high generation costs, high tariffs (which is the problem with the above-mentioned FIT, which government passes on to consumers), and permitting issues since it can take a long time to acquire permits especially when projects span multiple municipalities and barangays.

Despite these challenges, there is really no turning back for us. The Philippines will continue developing renewable sources of energy, and new projects and developments will help boost the renewable energy portfolio of the country. As President Rodrigo Duterte has said many times, we should not be pressured by other countries because really, they are the ones that must catch up with us first. While RE is still relatively expensive, we are still free to explore other energy sources — after all, we contribute a negligible amount of greenhouses gases to the atmosphere.

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