Think-tank: DOE ‘technology-neutral’ stance to blame for dwindling share of RE in PH power mix

Sustainable energy think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) on Wednesday raised concern over the lamentable state of renewable energy (RE) development in the country, and called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to rethink its ‘technology-neutral’ approach to make way for the creation and implementation of ambitious RE policies.

The call was made following the announcement of the National Renewable Energy Board that it is now seeking to review the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) after RE’s share in the power mix hit a record low of 21% last year, a decade after the Renewable Energy Act was passed into law.

“When the Renewable Energy Law was enacted in 2008, the Philippines was lauded for being among the first countries to set a clear vision for a sustainable power sector. Ten years later, it seems that the law’s hopes simply went down the drain. Officials of the Department of Energy, mandated to secure clean, affordable, and reliable electricity for Filipinos, should already be tearing their hair out with this news,” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of CEED.

CEED last May published a review of the energy sector in the past decade, which saw an alarming rate of coal expansion, lag in renewable energy development, and rising use of fossil gas in the Philippines.

“In the last 10 years, 16 new coal-fired plants were added to our national power fleet. The NREB reports that RE’s share in the mix, meanwhile, went down by 14% to 19% in the same period. Our deepening dependence on fossil fuels, brought about by the delayed implementation of the RE law and an observable partiality to dirty energy from mostly imported coal, has not only undermined our country’s energy security and caused soaring electricity prices, it has also led us off-track in adhering to imperatives of the climate crisis,” said Arances.

Despite the Philippines having an RE potential of 250 GW excluding solar, DOE in the past years has insisted on a non-preference for RE and refused to restrict the development of fossil fuels projects, dooming consumers and affected communities with the dirty and costly impacts of coal. 

“Recent scientific findings, beginning with the 2018 report of the IPCC, show that the climate crisis demands a radical reduction of fossil fuel use globally. Quite fortunately, climate-vulnerable Philippines is in a position to lead the transition with its abundant renewable sources. The NREB should consider this as it updates the NREP. More importantly, the DOE should end its talk of neutrality, which has benefited none other than companies developing coal power,” said Arances.

According to the energy advocate, a technology-neutral stance is simply inconsistent with a law promoting the development of renewable energy and has only hampered our people’s access to cheap and clean electricity from renewables.

“The DOE has yet to significantly comply with the marching orders President Duterte issued a year ago for it to fast-track RE development and decrease dependence on coal. We remind them that press releases don’t count in this regard; their compliance will be reflected in the share of RE in the energy mix and in the price of consumers’ electricity bills,” he said.