Spain recently announced its plan to source all its power needs from renewable energy by 2050 in the hope of fully decarbonizing its economy. To achieve this goal, its government is committing to installing 3,000 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar capacity yearly in the next decade.
Aside from additional capacity from renewables, the Spanish government will also ban new licenses for hydrocarbon exploitation, fracking wells, and fossil fuel drills. Spain will also allot one-fifth of its national budget to mitigate the effects of climate change.
The government is prepared to look after the welfare of workers who are likely to lose their jobs due to the shift to renewable energy by providing early retirement schemes and re-skilling in clean energy jobs.
Not surprisingly, Spain’s announcement was hailed by many. The chief executive of the SolarPower Europe trade association, James Watson described Spain’s move as “a wake-up call to the rest of the world”.
Likewise, the chief executive of the European Climate Foundation, and former French climate envoy, Laurence Tubiana said that this move is both inspirational and groundbreaking. “By planning on going carbon neutral, Spain shows that the battle against climate change is deadly serious, that they are ready to step up and plan to reap the rewards of decarbonization,” she stressed.
Spain is not the only country that is making the headlines for its commitment to using more renewable energy. A recent report by Green Energy Markets found that Australia is likely to have three-quarters of its energy needs supplied by renewables by 2030.
The report noted that the installation of 150 megawatts of solar rooftop energy systems in residential and commercial zones in October alone is a record breaker as it is 76 percent higher than the monthly average last year. Australia has also committed to large-scale solar and wind farm projects with a total capacity of 412 watts with construction set to commence in October.
The additional 412 MW capacity brings the year-to-date total to 3,200 MW. The report stressed that this recent commitment and additional capacities will allow the majority of Australia’s power needs to source from clean forms of energy. “If we maintained over the next decade the record rate of both rooftop solar installations and wind and solar farm construction commitments that have prevailed since 2017 then renewable energy would represent 78 percent of electricity supply across Australia’s west and east coast main grids, ” the report noted.
Spain’s move, as well as Australia’s accomplishments, are more than welcome developments. After all, we need drastic action to combat the effects of climate change. More so since the world has only 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe as recently warned by the United Nations. This gloomy warning says that the world has only a dozen years to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 C. Otherwise, we will see the worsening of droughts, floods, poverty, and extreme heat.
Speaking of extreme heat, scientists also say that 2018 is likely to be the fourth hottest year on record. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the average global temperature between January and October was close to 1 c above the pre-industrial baseline.
The WMO stresses that the 20 warmest years on record happened in the past 22 years and the four hottest have all come in the last four years. A warmer world is very alarming and has dire effects according to WMO Deputy Secretary-General Elena Manaenkova. “Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water, to the extinction of animals and plants, to the survival of coral reefs and marine life,” she said.
Unfortunately, the Filipinos do not seem to share the other countries enthusiasm for renewable energy. Our energy planners and government officials fail to realize that shifting to renewables is the only way forward if we are to provide power for all as well as help save the planet.
This lack of appreciation is lamentable since the Filipinos will surely benefit from using more renewables. For example, off-grid islands will no longer have to rely on the expensive diesel-powered generators if we only we can harness our natural resources properly. In fact, one study showed that the Philippines could save as much as Php10 billion if off-grid islands turn to RE instead of the expensive diesel generators.
Plus, renewables can help ease the burden of Filipinos who pay more for power consumption everytime the international coal prices shoot up or when the peso falls against the dollars. As I have been explaining, renewable energy provides a fixed price whereas coal and gas power sources result in higher power rates as prices are affected by movements in the foreign exchange and world prices.
Of course, the Philippines should also do its part in helping improve the world’s carbon footprint. After all, our country is ranked as one of the most vulnerable to climate change, according to credit rater Moody’s. “The Philippines’ heavy reliance on agriculture (31% of employment) and high exposure to climate-related disasters (on average 19 events per year over the last decade) imply that it was already among a group of sovereigns that we assessed as vulnerable to climate change — but it is now among the most vulnerable.”
The reported, which was released last May, noted that the calamities in the country affect economic activities and food production. Plenty of Filipinos have also lost their lives due to natural disasters. It is then wise for us to do our share in mitigating the effects of climate change since the Filipinos suffer so much from its consequences.
Clearly, we need to grab every opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint to help keep global warming at the desired level as well as improve the Filipinos access to energy. This is why the two countries announcements and achievements may be ambitious but nevertheless admirable. Such actions, particularly shifting to renewable energy is what the world and the Filipinos badly need right now.
Electricity-Sector Opportunities in the Philippines: The Case for Wind- and Solar-Powered Small Island Grids. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis