The following article by author Angel C. Aquino was first published on the November 2018 “Design & Innovation” issue of BDO’s Managing Wealth magazine. It is reproduced below with said author’s approval.
THE SEARCH FOR
Our country is rich in clean, renewable sources of power.
Whether or not we make full use of these resources may play
a pivotal role in our fate as a nation
Text by ANGEL C. AQUINO
When Typhoon Sendong hit Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in 2011, a group of young professionals thought of using solar energy to charge cellphones and lamps, and to produce clean water. With the power still out, they proceeded to set up charging stations in evacuation centers so that victims can reach out to their families and ask for help from authorities.
That group is SolarSolutions, one of the pioneers in the field of renewable energy. Atty. Aison Garcia, one of its founders, says, “Our advocacy is for local communities to harness the abundant sunlight and use it as
electricity. Our current product, aside from the solar roof top system, is the solar sari-sari store that makes solar energy affordable to urban poor, fisherfolk, and farmers.”
While renewable energy only produces 24.6 percent of the country’s total electricity as of December 2017, the future presents a wealth of opportunities.
“Ever since the implementation of the Renewable Energy Law in 2008, more and more renewable energy projects have emerged, thanks in part to increasing cost competitiveness,” says Atty. Cyril C. Del Callar, Managing Partner of DCP Law, professor of energy law at the Ateneo Law School, and former undersecretary of the Department of Energy (DOE).
“Harnessing and expanding renewable energy in the Philippines would not only reduce the country’s carbon footprint, but in displacing conventional or non-renewable sources such as coal and oil-based fossil fuels from the energy mix, it would also reduce the need for foreign imports. Combined with efforts to build upon local natural gas deposits, this may help significantly in fostering energy security and self-sustainability.”
“While the laws are sufficient and may be even comparatively ahead of neighboring countries, more investments and accompanying technologies for these renewable energy projects are still needed.”
- ATTY. CYRIL C. DEL CALLAR, Managing Partner of DCP Law, Professor of Energy Law at the Ateneo Law School
During Engineer Francis Paderna’s 20-year stint with the National Power Corporation (NPC), he was involved in the construction of several geothermal power plants in the Bicol region. After he retired from NPC, he and his partners put up the First Maxpower International Corporation (FMIC), which now has several existing wind energy service contracts with DOE.
“We focus on renewable energy because we believe that these God-given resources are cleaner, cheaper, more sustainable, and more dependable energy sources for the country,” Paderna says. “As other countries move more aggressively towards renewable energy development, we are hoping that our government would also view it this way.”
Charlene Vee Tan, Founder and CEO of All Vision Solar Energy Systems, stresses that it’s important to harness renewable energy sources as it gives our country independence and stability from outside forces. “Coal and other fuel-related sources have to be imported and require trade deals to happen. Thus, they are sensitive to foreign exchange fluctuations and international relations. This makes us ‘hostage’ to those who control the limited resources mentioned.”
Atty. Jojo Leviste, president of Constellation Energy Philippines and Italpinas Development Corporation, is passionate about developing sustainable and eco-friendly projects. Currently, Constellation Energy is engaged in five projects involving wind, geothermal, and hydropower. Their goal is to provide clean sources of power and assure a stable supply of electricity to Filipino homes and industries. “We have only harnessed the tip of the iceberg in terms of what resources are available. In the future, there will be successive waves of new resources that will become commercially viable as technology improves.”
Large companies, such as AboitizPower, also believe in harnessing the power of renewable energy. Together with their partners, AboitizPower produces more than 1,200 MW from their portfolio of hydro, geothermal, and solar power generating plants all over the country. They currently have 30 power plants that make up their Cleanergy portfolio, which is their brand for clean and renewable energy.
As consumers become more environmentally aware, so would their demand for renewable energy. According to Emmanuel V. Rubio, COO of Aboitiz Power Corporation, “We expect more customers to have more options and, as a result, a growing demand for renewable energy. AboitizPower will continue its Balanced Portfolio strategy, which is to develop a mix of complementing technologies that will allow us to deliver energy reliably, reasonably, and responsibly.”
“Coal and other fuel-related sources have to be imported and require trade deals
to happen. Thus, they are sensitive to foreign exchange fluctuations and international relations. This makes us ‘hostage’ to those who control the limited resources mentioned.”
- CHARLENE VEE TAN, Founder and CEO, All Vision Solar Energy
As with any worthwhile endeavor, there are a number of challenges. For starters, renewable energy sources are location specific — rivers for hydropower or steam fields near volcanoes for geothermal power.
Rubio adds, “We also have to look at permitting, social acceptability, and the available infrastructure like roads and transmission assets to be able to bring the power generated to the customers.”
The implementation of laws related to renewable energy also leaves much room for improvement. Atty. Del Callar says, “While the laws are sufficient and may be even comparatively ahead of neighboring countries, more investments and accompanying technologies for these renewable energy projects are still needed.”
Lastly, there is the issue of consumer acceptance. Garcia says, “Ordinary people are not familiar with solar technology and are not comfortable spending upfront for the cost of setting up a solar power system. However, it is good that there is already the net metering system wherein one can sell excess electricity produced from solar power to a utility provider (like Meralco). So setting up a solar power system can be self-liquidating and can even produce income.”
THE FUTURE OF
Unlike fossil fuels, which cause harm to the environment and which may be depleted someday, renewable energy is a clean resource that can continue to be enjoyed by our children, our great grandchildren, and future generations for years to come. “As long as the sun shines and the wind blows, the future
of renewable energy is promising,” says Garcia.
Along with growing investments from the private sector, DOE plans to issue new initiatives to further boost renewable energy. However, ordinary citizens can also contribute to the cause. “To support renewable energy, ordinary citizens can install solar or wind power in their homes and apply for the net metering. They can also try to make their household efficient by saving electricity or using LED lights. This will lessen consumption of coal and prioritize the use of renewable energy,” adds Garcia.
Tan says that citizens can also encourage their local government to use more renewable resources. “When most streetlights are converted to solar-powered ones, funds that should have been used to pay for electricity can now be used to develop other facilities. These acts help promote awareness on renewable energy and develop better facilities for the community.”
But more than just utilizing renewable resources in our homes and communities, Leviste encourages citizens to learn more about the process of renewable energy production, transmission, and consumption. “A deeper level of awareness would highlight to the general public that there are many challenges to achieving a more balanced and diverse power mix, but there are just as many solutions available. It is definitely not as simple as just installing a wind turbine or a solar panel. The story is deeper, more complex, more interesting, and potentially more rewarding than that.”