Where PHL is in the renewable shift

Where PHL is in the renewable shift

Photo from FREEPIK

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently released its AR6 Synthesis Report: Climate Change 2023, which summed up its five years of reports. In a statement, the IPCC said that the challenge needed to limit warming to 1.5°C  becomes greater now since it stressed such a challenge in 2018, as greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise.

Losses and damages being experienced and would continue to be felt in the future, which especially impact most vulnerable people and ecosystems intensely, are in sharp focus of the IPCC’s latest climate change report. Nonetheless, it outlined several options that could be undertaken to reduce emissions.

The energy sector, having a critical part to address climate change, is striving for a clean energy future. But where is the industry now in turning the vision of a clean energy future into a reality?

In the Department of Energy’s (DoE) National Renewable Energy Program 2020-2040 (NREP), the country has set a target of 35% renewable energy (RE) share in power generation mix by 2030, then 50% by 2040.

In the past years, however, the country saw a downward trend in RE’s share in power generation. From the DoE’s Energy Sector Accomplishment Report 2016-2022, the country’s installed capacity of renewables went down to 28.9% or 7,965 megawatts (MW) in 2021 from 32% (6,994 MW) in 2016. The share of coal, which remained to be the country’s primary energy source, went up from 34% (7,419 MW) to 42.5% (11,684 MW) in the same period.

Looking at the capacities of different renewable sources, as per the Global Energy Monitor, the Philippines has a 1,757 MW of currently operating solar farm capacity as of January; geothermal power capacity of 1,590 MW; 435 MW in wind farm capacity; and 125 MW in bioenergy capacity.

In terms of prospective capacities, the country has a prospective capacity of 27,357 MW in solar farm; 14,988 MW in wind farm; 250 MW in geothermal power; and 42 MW in bioenergy.

The Global Energy Monitor has yet to release its tracker on global hydropower. As per DoE’s accomplishment report, hydropower had the highest RE share in the country with 3,781 MW in 2021. An additional hydropower capacity of 233 MW for the period 2021-2027 is expected from the committed RE power projects.

The Philippines is seen to have a potential of 246,00 MW untapped renewable capacity. So what are some of the recent programs and expansion involving renewables in the country?

The Green Energy Auction Program (GEAP) was issued in 2021 to provide an additional market for renewables via competitive electronic bidding of RE capacities.

The second round of GEA is set in June, with the DoE hoping to have 11,160 MW of RE available in the few succeeding years, according to DoE undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. For the coming year, 3,590 MW of the 11,160 MW is targeted for installation, with Luzon accounting for 2,400 MW, Visayas with 860 MW, and 330 MW for Mindanao.

Ground-mounted solar, roof-mounted solar, onshore wind, and biomass would be among the RE sources.

The first round of auction generated nearly 2,000 MW of RE capacities committed to deliver energy in 2023 to 2025.

“Compared to the first auction or GEA-1 last year, we are more aggressive this year and we are looking for RE developers who have ready capacity by next year,” Ms. Guevara was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is confidently expecting a “significant increase” in the participants of the net metering program.

Net metering allows consumers to generate electricity for their own use by installing a maximum of 100 kilowatts (kW) of RE systems and sell their excesses to the distribution grid.

The ERC said there are 7,583 net metering participants as of end-2021, with 6,120 are in Luzon, 1,168 in Visayas, and 295 in Mindanao.

“While the program demonstrates potential savings in electricity cost and protection from bill shock, actual data shows the need for more aggressive efforts to promote and implement the program in many parts of the country,” the ERC said last January.

“We can encourage more end-users to sign up via information campaigns so consumers will be aware of what net metering is all about, how to join and highlight the benefits,” it added.

Full foreign ownership of RE projects has also been allowed in the country, as the DoE issued Circular No. 2022-11-0034, amending Section 19 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008. Foreign ownership of RE projects was limited to 40% then.

“With the impressive amount of interest, the DoE has been receiving both from the local and foreign investors in RE development, particularly in the offshore wind potential, the state can now directly undertake the exploration, development, production, and utilization of RE resources or it can enter into RE service or operating contracts with Filipino and/or foreign citizen or Filipino and/or foreign-owned corporations or associations,” DoE Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla said in a statement.

The Philippines committing to net zero is seen to have the capacity to “send a strong signal” to investors, which could then help the country attract investment needed to make the energy transition happen.

“On the flip side, without a net zero goal, the Philippines risks detaching itself from an increasingly climate-conscious global community and worsening its own exposure to climate change,” said David Kayanan, a financial and market analyst at Wärtsilä Energy.

Wärtsilä said in a statement from September that the Philippines could achieve net zero by 2050 through renewable-based power systems, backed by grid balancing engines and energy storage.

The country has yet to declare a clear net-zero target. Instead, it has committed to reducing its emissions by 75% by 2030 for its first Nationally Determined Contribution submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in April 2021.