March 5, 2018

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the country should maximize the use of renewable energy (RE) sources as part of its low emissions development strategies in addressing climate change, energy security, and access to energy.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia last week stressed that renewable energy is urgently needed in poor, far-flung regions where there is high-energy deficit.

“Solar power, among other renewable energy applications, can directly contribute to poverty uplift by supplying the electricity needed for starting businesses and generating jobs,” Pernia said in his keynote presentation at the Access to Sustainable Energy Programme (ASEP) Experts Symposium on Productive Uses of Renewable Energy in Off-grid Areas, held in Taguig City on Friday.

He noted RE is a more attractive solution to the country’s power needs as it enhances power supply and reduces costs of power generation in the country’s off-grid areas, thereby making energy available in poor communities.

As of 2017, the country’s total installed capacity mix remained dominated by coal, followed by renewable energy, oil, and natural gas. In terms of power generation, coal remains the major source of electricity for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

“The Philippines is still some distance away to freedom from energy poverty, especially in rural areas and the remote countryside where some Filipinos still use firewood for cooking and heating,” Pernia said.

Given the country’s thin power reserves, the country’s urban poor are the most vulnerable when electric power shortfall events occur, due to plant shutdowns following calamities, accidents, or planned maintenance.

Under the Philippine Development Plan (PDP), rural electrification remains among the priorities of the government through accelerating strategic infrastructure development. The government will provide electric services to the remaining un-electrified off-grid, island, remote, and last-mile communities to achieve total and complete household electrification by 2022.

“This would accomplish the national goal of reaching the farthest ends of the Philippine archipelago in order to achieve inclusive growth, energy security and resiliency for the Filipino people,” Pernia said.

As embodied in the PDP, Renewable Energy Action Plans include harmonizing the Transmission Development Plan (TDP) with RE targets, initiating policies to increase competition in power generation, and pursuing research and development on renewable energy and technologies.

To attain this, Pernia said the government should hasten the development and adoption of RE applications in off-grid areas, critically review and rationalize the operative Feed-in-Tariff system, and establish a good data collection system for renewable power production and use. This would facilitate an objective assessment of the effects on economic productivity, employment creation and poverty alleviation, among other concerns.

Friday’s symposium was hosted by ASEP in cooperation with the Department of Energy, the National Electrification Administration, and electric cooperatives in three off-grid communities in Davao and Bohol.