By Nanda F. Moenandar
Met during one of the 33rd AMEM’s associated meetings in Kuala Lumpur, Undersecretary Ayson (Career Executive Service Officer/CESO I, Department of Energy, Philippines) warmly welcome the discussion on renewable energy (RE) with ASEAN Centre for Energy. For this purpose, she made herself available for a brief meeting and shared her insights as to the Philippines’ Senior Officials on Energy (SOE) Leader.
Q: The ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2010-2015’s collective target for renewable energy (RE) share in regional power generation mix was 15%. From a SOE Leader’s point of view, what are your thoughts on this higher target?
A: I would like to commend the ASEAN Member States (AMS) for collectively achieving its target of 15% share of RE in the regional power generation mix 2010-2015. This could be attributed to the ASEAN’s joint efforts in pushing the development of RE resources undertaken in response to the global concern on the impact of climate change. Having achieved that, I am happy that we have decided on a new aspirational target of 23% RE share in the primary energy mix for the planning horizon of 2016-2025, which I believe is a good step towards attaining fuel diversification and energy security as well as pushing for low carbon future. These are important objectives because we foresee that Southeast Asia is starting to become a dominant player in the global energy markets. Optimistically, I think we could realize this goal we have set through our ASEAN cooperation and the technological breakthroughs in RE which we should adopt to work to our advantage.
Q: In your capacity as SOE Leader, what do you think are the greatest challenges in promoting RE?
A: There are a lot of challenges in accelerating the deployment of RE such as the variable RE as well as costs and availability of adequate space/areas for certain RE technologies, among others. On a long-term basis, there is this challenge to achieve grid parity of RE installations costs to be comparable with other fuels. In short, the challenge is to achieve the competitiveness of RE.
For the Philippines, we are currently faced with issues on raising awareness and social acceptance, streamlining of administrative processes for the facilitation of RE investment and deployment, as well as the timely and full implementation of RE policy mechanisms as required under our RE Law.
Another thing is the issue of food vs energy. It raises a challenge because both should not be competing with each other. For example, food for consumption should not be competing with food for biofuels. We should be able to manage that issue.
Finally, investments in RE have to be looked into more closely. With rapid economic growth in Southeast Asia, increasing energy demand is expected to pose problems if we don’t do anything about it at this point. There is an urgent need to put up more energy infrastructures and sustainable energy systems to cope with the challenge of the times.
Q: Any thoughts on how the Philippines could move forward with ASEAN—particularly the ASEAN Centre for Energy—in regards to RE efforts?
A: The Philippines has always been actively participating in the formulation and implementation of the programmes of the Renewable Energy Sub-sector Network (RE-SSN) and we will remain very supportive of it. Also, I think the Philippines should participate more in joint researches and studies; more importantly, in home-grown technologies. For example, it will be good to have a study on the use of local materials in RE production so that AMS could make use of their readily available local materials. This will turn out to be cheaper rather than using imported materials which are more expensive. Likewise, intensive information campaigns to raise public awareness are also necessary in order to address resistance to RE which still occurs in some areas such as those related to ancestral domains.
On technical assistance, the Philippines may be able to share its expertise in the area of geothermal development as we are the second geothermal producer in the world after the USA. This could be a part of an experts exchange programme where AMS could provide each other with technical assistance and undertake capacity building activities in RE. The Philippines has collaborations with North and South American countries where our Filipino experts and investors are working on several geothermal projects.
Moreover, I observe that ASEAN’s ocean energy sources are bountiful, but they remain untapped. ASEAN should find applicable ocean technologies to explore these vast resources. This could be the breakthrough that we are looking for in embarking on sustainable and durable solutions to the region’s energy needs for economic and inclusive growth.
Q: We’d also like to congratulate you for being this year’s Awardee for Excellence in Energy Management by Individuals. As an awardee, how do you think we can improve the management of RE programmes to make it an important source of energy in ASEAN?
A: First, allow me to thank you for your congratulatory statement. I really commend ASEAN for giving these Awards to individuals, government institutions and private companies/organizations. This is a good incentive or motivation for individuals and companies/organizations to work harder. But of course, I think we do not work just for the Awards, but because we want to do something for the energy sector towards energy self-reliance and economic growth.
To answer your question, I would like to share that the Philippines has passed a Renewable Energy Act of 2008 to ensure the aggressive development of our renewable energy resources. Said law provides both fiscal and non-fiscal incentives to RE developers and has put in place policy mechanisms such as the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) and Net-Metering Rules and Interconnection Standards. Presently, we are finalizing our Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) and policy on Green Energy Option, including the RPS for Missionary Areas. Our overall RE target is tripling the share of RE in 2030 from its 2010 level. So far, we have a total of close to 2,000 MW installed capacity for RE. The point I am driving at here is the importance of a national policy (or a law) to promote and accelerate the development of RE.
Having said that, I would like also to espouse the importance of government paving the way for the investment-friendly environment to be able to entice investors to undertake RE projects. Along this line, nurturing public-private partnerships could encourage energy investment and trade across the region. However, in the Philippines, the government cannot invest in energy projects for power generation because we have a law, known as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, which allows only private sector investments in power projects. In order to promote energy investments in the Philippines, we conduct regularly Energy Investment Forum which promotes, among others, RE.
Finally, it is strongly proposed that we continue undertaking regional and national planning because by doing these, we could both set targets and work together to achieve shared strategies and action plans that are expected to intensify efforts towards the promotion and development of RE in the region. It will also provide a platform for sharing knowledge and experiences, lessons learned and best practices so we could improve RE policies and deployment both at the regional and national levels.
In all of these, I believe the role of ASEAN Centre for Energy will be critical as it performs its role as “think tank” for regional energy policymakers and as a link in the establishment of the strategic partnership with international industry players.