The Philippine President wants more (solar) power

With a pending power crisis looming in the horizon, the President now comes out openly supporting investments in solar power. Let’s see how we can support the investment needed in this area.

From The Philippine Star
Noy wants more investments in renewable energy
By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 1, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – Invest in renewable energy to ensure adequate power supply that would not be harmful to the environment, President Aquino urged the energy sector yesterday.

The President also gave assurance that his call for Congress to grant him emergency powers to enable the government to contract additional generating capacity was only meant to address the shortage in the summer of 2015. He said the initiative would make sure the economy would not lose momentum.

“It is of absolute importance that we continue exploring and investing in clean and renewable energy sources,” Aquino said in his speech at Energy Smart Philippines 2014, which was organized by the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation.

“As we pursue such projects, we remain fully aware of our obligations to future generations of Filipinos. This is why, despite our status as a developing country, despite the need to industrialize further and despite our historically low carbon emissions, we are still doing everything in our power to maintain and improve our low-emission development strategy,” he added.

He said investors should consider the long-term effects of their ventures on the environment, as the government’s goal for the energy sector has always been for reliable power that is “preferably clean” and “reasonably priced.”

Aquino noted that during his speech before the United Nations headquarters in New York last week, the country’s voice was added to what had become a universal call against climate change.

“I spoke of our country’s experience with the new normal caused by climate change, about how countries like ours, despite being less industrialized, bear a disproportionate amount of the burden. I emphasized the necessity of unity: how we must end the era of debating each country’s individual obligations, and instead embark on a concerted global effort to address the issue, with each of us doing everything we can,” Aquino said.

The President said his administration remains committed to the National Renewable Energy Program, which is aimed at adding 9,931 megawatts of renewable energy-based capacity by 2030.

He said the country was making early strides, citing the inauguration of Phase 1 of the San Carlos Solar Energy Facility, which would produce 22 MWs of solar power.

Aquino said they were also looking to incentivize the entry of around 450 more MWs of solar power, with the Department of Energy endorsing to the Energy Regulatory Commission the expansion of the installation target for solar power under the Feed-in-Tariff System.

Saying diversifying energy sources is not the only way to minimize carbon footprint, the President said the Department of Energy (DOE) has undertaken large-scale projects that would reduce consumption.

He cited the Philippine Energy Efficiency Program (PEEP), which involved the distribution of 8.6 million compact fluorescent lamps.

“It has reduced power demand, I’m told, by as much as 240 megawatts in the evenings, and annual consumption by 306 gigawatt (GW) hours,” he said.

Through the PEEP, he said the DOE replaced the lighting systems of national and local government offices, and retrofitted a number of public lighting systems, reducing annual power consumption by 11.05 GW hours and 4.42 GW hours, respectively.

With the help of the Asian Development Bank, Aquino said the government was looking forward to the first delivery of e-tricycles for the e-vehicles project. He said the DOE is in the process of procuring 3,000 e-tricycles, which is expected to be completed by next year.

“This will be the first step towards our goal of replacing 100,000 gas-fueled tricycles with electric ones, which will reduce our carbon footprint further, as well as our dependence on oil,” Aquino said.

The President said the country’s growing power needs should be met, citing the potential 300-megawatt shortfall of energy in 2015, which some project to be as large as 1,000 MW.

“Such a situation necessitates steps to ensure energy supply if a shortfall does arise, which is why we have asked Congress for a joint resolution authorizing the national government to contract additional generating capacity,” he said.

Energy saving measures

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said the government is eyeing mandatory energy saving measures as Congress decided not to immediately grant emergency powers to the President to address a looming power crisis.

He cited the need for the public to consider using their air-conditioning unit at 25 degrees during summer, adding that an inspection could be done to ensure compliance.

The energy chief said those who could not self-generate electricity but are big consumers would have to be inspected as well.

“One of the things that we are also trying to exempt are those with solar, certain capacity, because they don’t get from the grid so we will exempt you. But these are just some suggestions that we’ll give to lawmakers,” Petilla said.

“We will get from Meralco (Manila Electric Co.) and from all ECs (electric cooperatives) the (list of) heavy users and see if we can ask them to reduce their consumption even just for summer,” Petilla said.

He said possible penalties could be discussed with the lawmakers in case mandatory energy saving measures would be implemented.

However, he admitted it might be difficult to enforce on all households so they would just have to appeal to families to conserve energy.

He also cited the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to generate additional power requirements next year, which would no longer pass through the Energy Regulatory Commission. Under the program, big establishments will be asked to operate their own generator sets if the grid operator projects a need to augment generation capacity.

“We still have to deal with the intricacies of ILP but it’s still an option,” Petilla said. – With Iris Gonzales

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