Renewable energy plan under review as share of clean sources declines

By Victor V. Saulon – September 1, 2019 | 11:45 pm
from Business World

RENEWABLE energy’s dwindling share in the country’s mix of power sources has prompted the government to review its program that was meant to help ensure energy security and improve access to clean energy, an official said.

Mylene C. Capongcol, director of the Department of Energy’s (DoE) Renewable Energy Management Bureau (REMB), said the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP), drafted in 2011, is up for review.

“(NREP) covers the planning horizon of 2011-2030. The target is to triple the capacity by 2030. At the time it was issued, 5,000 megawatts (MW) ang ating existing RE (renewable energy) capacity. The target is by end of 2030, dapat nasa (it must reach) 15,000 MW,” she told reporters.

However, she said that based on the DoE’s assessment, only around 7,000 MW had been added from 2011 to 2017.

Malayo pa ang hahabulin (Catching up will take time),” she added.

Separately, the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB), a panel composed of members from the public and private sector, is looking at a longer time-frame for the new program.

“We’re targeting updated program by October,” Monalisa C. Dimalanta, chairman of the NREB board, told reporters.

She said what the board is doing is to re-evaluate the program to determine why the country failed to meet the target, and what additional work needs to be done.

“For the new NREP, we’re looking at the timeframe 2020-2040,” she said.

She said the program had been easy to implement for some technologies like solar energy, which requires a short gestation period before operation. She said solar projects have exceeded the installation target by more than three times.

“But for some technologies like geothermal, which is what we want to push further because we are rich in geothermal, there’s a long gestation period. We need to account for that gestation period as well,” she said.

Ms. Dimalanta said NREB was working closely with geothermal energy companies to understand the reason behind the slow uptake that led to the Philippines being overtaken by Indonesia as the world’s largest producer of the resource.

“That’s quite a bit disheartening, but that’s also challenging. It gives us the challenge on how we can go back to harnessing geothermal,” she said.

“Key challenge is really the exploration phase, the pre-development phase. It requires significant investment during [pre-development] period when you’re just drilling and looking for the resource, and you’re not earning anything,” she added.

Ms. Dimalanta has ruled out a feed-in tariff scheme that guarantees a fixed rate for RE output that is subsidized by consumers. The program has been previously offered for solar, wind, biomass, run-of-river projects.

She also noted that the share of renewables to the country’s energy capacity mix had dwindled.

“In the supply mix, [the target is] more than 30%, now [it’s] 23% as of last year,” she said. “Instead of increasing the share of RE in the supply mix, we’re reducing.”

She said the decrease can be explained by a bigger rise in energy capacity using non-RE technologies.

“The pie got bigger with the share of non-RE getting bigger. For RE, the increase was not proportional,” she said.

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