Renewable Energy: Not just about pesos and centavos

One of the causes closest to my heart is renewable energy. Prior to my current capacity, I’ve been working full-time in advocating for a worthy cause that is meant to create a more sustainable world. While I may no longer be doing advocacy work full-time, I know that I can never fully separate myself from pushing for the cause.

This blog is not just about football, but other matters that are important to me as well. I know I do have a small regular readership, and I am doing a tiny bit to spread the word on the importance of developing and utilizing the Philippines’ renewable energy resources.


Renewable energy advocates, in a roundtable discussion that featured two of the 2011 Ramon Magsaysay awardees, called on government to match its renewable energy commitments and targets with firm action and deliverables.

Citing the divergent views of government agencies, the participants underscored the need for government to come up with a harmonized set of policies and actions on renewable energy.

“No less than the President said that ‘Renewable energy will fuel our future and that it is a vital cornerstone that will crown our people’s commitment to change.’  We hope to see that commitment transformed into action as mandated by the RE law.    If the cause of providing electricity to 20 million people is not compelling enough, what could be?” said Catherine Maceda, Managing Director of the Center for Clean and Renewable Energy Development.

She further added that “we cannot be pulled toward opposite directions by the divergent views of government agencies,” in reaction to the call of Undersecretary Cristino Panlilio of the Board of Investments for the suspension in the implementation of the RE Law. “RE is clearly not the impediment.  It is the solution, which, based on the UNDP-DOE Capacity Building to Remove Barriers to Renewable Energy Development (CBRED) study, can generate as much as USD1.2 billion in net benefits if we develop and use 2,500 MW of additional RE capacities.  RE is not about pesos and cents, for even the poor, through the right programs, can afford RE,” Maceda added.

Jointly organized by Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation and The Center for Clean and Renewable Energy Development, the discussions recognized the need for innovative leadership that can deliver sustainable electricity in underserved communities. Taking off from the instructive experiences of Harish Hande of India and Tri Mumpuni of Indonesia, two of this year’s Magsaysay Awardees, the discussants explored how the innovative leadership of these laureates has made sustainable electricity in underserved areas a powerful equalizer in the communities they serve. Hande and Mumpuni are renewable energy champions that have helped poor communities gain access to clean sources of energy.

“The experiences of our Magsaysay Laureates send a powerful message that the poor can also afford renewable energy,” said Fr. Conegundo Garganda, Executive Secretary of the CBCP-ECY. “We heralded the passage of the Renewable Energy Law in 2008 only to be stifled by so-called threats of higher electricity rates. For many years, we have been paying for electricity we did not even use and for other items in our electric bills many of us do not even understand.    Today, we get the chance to make a real investment for our future and we hesitate.  How can investing in clean energy be wrong, and paying for electricity we did not even use be right?” asks Fr. Garganta.

Hande shared his program in India which is anchored on a three-fold strategy – customizing products, doorstep financing, and doorstep service, Hande designed and installed solar technology applications based on the specific needs of each customer. He did not only give them access to technology, but he also served as their link with credit institutions for financing. Consequently, these poor communities were empowered by turning them to asset creators.

“We must capitalize on our countries’ natural resources through government-business-community joint ventures which will harness our renewable energy sources,” said Mumpuni.  She established IBEKA, a social enterprise that built 60 micro hydropower plants that provided electricity to half a million people in rural Indonesia.

The Philippines is much like Indonesia and India, with huge potentials for both solar and hydro energy development. While the Philippines has a solid policy framework in the form of the RE Law and a National Renewable Energy Program (NREP), the implementation of RE projects seem to be encountering some delays in the wake of concerns that RE would increase the cost of electricity.  The insights shared during the RTD, however, debunked the myth that RE is beyond the reach of the poor and would only impose additional burden to the consumers in the form of additional electricity tariffs.

“Do people even remember to ask what the youth thinks about the on-going discussions on RE?” asked Emily Dy of the World Youth Alliance.  “Non-indigenous forms of energy are not cheap at all if we factor in health implications to future generations,” she added.  The UNDP CBRED study estimated that P15.8 billion in avoided health and environmental impacts will be realized by developing additional capacity of 2500 MW of RE.

The Philippines passed the RE Law in December 2008.  The President launched on June 14, 2011, the National Renewable Energy Program that aims to triple the country’s RE-based capacity from around 5,400MW in 2010 to 15,300 MW in 2030.  The Energy Regulatory Commission has yet to act on the Feed-in-Tariff applications for emerging RE technologies.  In the meantime, government has yet to come up with specific plans and guidelines for the application of RE for missionary electrification, as well as the guidelines for the establishment of the RE Trust Fund which is intended to develop local capacities and promote home-grown RE technologies.

Much of the greenfield projects that are expected to come on stream in the next 3 to 5 years are mostly coal-powered fleets.


If you’re interested in making a difference in the energy sector, please contact Alicia de Sagun, Advocacy Manager of the Center for Clean and Renewable Energy Development, at (632) 622-8448 or 553-0830.


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