Just recently, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a study titled “Accelerating the Deployment of Renewable Energy Mini-Grids for Off-Grid Electrification.” The research tackled how the Philippines can promote better access to basic electricity services as the government works on achieving total electrification in the country.
The study came up with five major recommendations ranging from defining roles and responsibilities, having a strategic and comprehensive planning for electrification, promoting the setting up of micro-grids, reviewing the regulatory frameworks for mini-grid projects and increasing support for project development and execution.
Of these recommendations, several caught my attention.
IRENA, in its conclusion, stressed that the country needs to prepare a definite plan for off-grid electrification, with the government revising the current Missionary Electrification Development Plan “to focus on reliable energy electricity access to small, remote and isolated areas.” Part of which is to aim for a 24-hour electricity service that can support both commercial and industrial needs to enhance livelihood opportunities to increase incomes.
The report noted that such goal could be achieved by “strategically using renewable energy technologies (RETs), selected based on a least-cost approach[Let’s comment by putting a caveat that “least cost” as generally defined no longer cuts it.][Might not be feasible because if we do, we would be contradicting the conclusion. ], to lower generation costs, improve reliability, increase service hours and avoid the use of fossil fuels.”
The reason for prioritizing RE for small and remote off-grid areas was underscored: “These technologies can reduce generation costs[Because it has no link to global prices and forex, the fixed price gives consumers an over-all lower cost and reduced risk.][addressed in succeeding paragraph, highlighted in yellow.] and increase service reliability and service hours, while simultaneously mitigating climate change and improving climate resiliency.”
Now, don’t these conclusions and recommendations of advocating the use of RE Technologies for off-grid islands by the IRENA sound familiar? I have been in fact, advocating almost the same recommendations and conclusions above.
For one, as I have been saying, renewables are the cheaper option as generation costs from them are not subject to global price changes and foreign exchange adjustments. On the other hand, traditional sources of power cause consumers to pay higher when the peso falls against the greenback or when prices of coal or oil surge in the world market.
Plus, of course, RE is obviously the better option to use to mitigate the effects of climate change.
But I’m not the only one who echo the calls made by the IRENA report. There are other reputable organization, too that are calling out our government to transition to RE for our energy needs.
For example, The Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) earlier this year released a study emphasizing the need for RETs in off-grid islands. The research, “Electricity-Sector Opportunities in the Philippines: The Case for Wind- and Solar-Powered Small Island Grids” noted that “Small island grids powered by solar, wind, and other renewable energy could reduce dependence on expensive imported fossil fuel generation without compromising the availability of power and grid reliability.” In fact, the country can save up to Php10 billion if off-grid islands use RE rather than traditional power sources.
The report stressed that off-grid islands in the country could transition away from fossil-fuels to RE except for the country’s policies and regulations, which are already outdated: “Barriers to small island grid uptake of modern renewable energy power include outdated regulations that have not kept up with technology.”
Time and time again, we have heard experts urge our government to invest in RETs for stable and secure supply both for those in the main grid supply as well as for off-grid islands especially since our government aims to achieve 90% household electrification by the end of this year.
As of July 2016, household electrification rate is at 89.6%, which means some 2.36 million homes are either without power or with limited electricity services of four to six hours daily. Such is still far from our government’s goal “that every Filipino family shall have an equal opportunity to access basic electricity service.”
There is no doubt, as many experts suggest, that the path to complete electrification is RE. But I will have to stress that RE can do more than just help us achieve our goal of 100 percent electrification. In fact, renewables are the long-term solution needed for our country’s energy security. And the sooner we learn how to implement RE systems, the more secure our future will be.
Electricity-Sector Opportunities in the Philippines: The Case for Wind- and Solar-Powered Small Island Grids
“Accelerating the Deployment of Renewable Energy Mini-Grids for Off-Grid Electrification.” IRENA