Taking Action

All over the world, calls are being made to shift from traditional forms of energy to more sustainable ones in the hope of saving our environment and making energy available for all. In response, various sectors have taken drastic actions and are making great progress in their shift to renewable energy.

The achievements of the private and public sector in transitioning to greener forms of power in recent years are significant. The numbers for 2017 alone are a testament to both sectors commitment to add and use more renewable energy.

Last year was a record-breaking year as renewable power generation capacity had its biggest annual increase of nine percent with an estimated 178 GW added capacity, according to REN21’s study, Renewables 2018 Global Status Report.

More renewable power was added than fossil fuels as renewables accounted for 70 percent of the overall combined global generating capacity. Investments in RE for 2017 reached $279 billion, up from the recorded $274 billion in 2016 as well.

The figures from corporate buying of renewable energy are admirable, too.

For one, the International Renewable Energy Agency report, Corporate Sourcing of Renewable Energy: Market and Industry Trends showed that firms across 75 countries sourced a total of 463 terawatt-hours from renewables in 2017. This volume is enough to power up a country equivalent to the total demand of France.

The report found out that half of the 2,400 large companies analyzed for the study are voluntarily and actively buying or investing in self-generation of renewable energy for their operations. Plus, 200 of these firms source at least 50 percent of their power needs from renewables. “Renewable energy sourcing has become a mainstream pillar of business strategy in recent years,” IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin stressed.

Environmental and sustainability concerns, social responsibility, reputation management, and economic and financial objectives are the top reasons cited by corporations on why they are making the shift to renewable power. “While environmental concerns initiated this growing trend, the strengthening business case and price stability offered by renewables can deliver a competitive advantage to corporations, and support sustainable growth,” Amin added.

There’s definitely an increased appetite for renewable energy as other countries are also gearing up to accommodate more renewables such as in the case of Vietnam.

Recently, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc reiterated his country ’s commitment to shift to renewable power in an interview with Reuters.

He announced that Vietnam is set to increase electricity generated from renewable sources to 101 kWh billion by 2020 and to 186 kWh billion by 2030 from 58 billion kWh recorded in 2015. The country also aims to reduce the use of coal and petroleum products by 40 million tons by 2030.

Phuc said that the government has already prepared incentive mechanisms as well as policies to promote local and foreign investments into renewable energy development.

The chief executive stressed that this shift is needed despite the country’s push for more economic growth,“It is important that we will not pursue economic growth at the expense of the environment,” Phuc noted.

turkey

Soma Kolin power plant in Turkey’s western province of Manisa. Survey says more Turkish favor greener forms of energy despite the country’s dependence on coal
Photo c/o: http://www.aa.com.tr

There also seems to be greater awareness and appreciation for renewables among citizens in other countries. Turkish, for example, favor greener forms of energy than coal despite Turkey’s dependence on this form of power. The country sources more than 70 percent of power need from fossil fuels since the government named coal as its preferred fuel for the growing energy demand.

A survey conducted by climate information hub İklim Haber and research company Konda revealed that more than half of its citizen oppose the building of additional coal-fired plants as 75 percent of the participants are worried about climate change.

In the Philippines, our government claims to have the appetite for more renewables in our power mix. But that hunger is not correctly matched by government’s actions. It is highly likely that we will remain starved for cleaner forms of energy for now as we have moved down our renewable energy targets.

The Energy Department had announced the target of sourcing 35 percent of our overall power needs from RE by 2030. This goal, however, has been recently pushed back to 2040. This is not surprising as data from BMI report showed that there would be a 10 percent increase of coal in our energy mix in the next decade from below 50 percent in 2017 to more than 55 percent by 2027.

That is unfortunate since now is an excellent time for the Philippines to add more renewables and to take advantage of the falling costs of renewable power prices. Plus, of course, we need stable energy at reasonable prices as we try to industrialize. But then, again, we will remain hungry for cheaper and sustainable forms of power for now.

References:

Renewables 2018, Global Status Report, http://www.ren21.net/gsr-2018/
http://www.vir.com.vn/vietnam-well-positioned-to-develop-renewable-energy-says-pm-59892.html

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2018/06/05/83-turks-favour-renewable-energy-coal-survey-finds/

http://www.irena.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2018/May/Corporate-Sourcing-of-Renewables-Growing-Taking-Place-in-75-Countries

Missing Out on Benefits

 

renewable-energy-jobs-in-world

10.3 million people were employed in renewable sector says IRENA. Photo c/o https://constructionplacements.com

Renewable energy as experts has been saying bring many benefits. All over the world, big global brands and governments are making the shift to sustainable sources of power because they to help the environment as well as save on power costs.

 

However, more affordable energy prices and a cleaner environment are not the only benefits of choosing renewable energy. Fortunately, opting to build RE plants has a direct on the economy through job generation.

The International Renewable Energy Agency or IRENA report, Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2018 showed that in 2017 alone, the renewable energy industry generated more than half a million jobs around the world. This number brings the total number of people employed by the sector to 10.3 million as some 500,000 more jobs were created last year by the industry.

The same report noted that United States, China, Brazil, Germany, Japan and India combined accounted for the 70 percent of the jobs. Asia on the other hand accounted for 60 percent of all the renewable jobs having employed three million workers for solar PV energy alone.

These numbers can silence many naysayers who claim that a shift to greener forms of energy could cost many workers their jobs. In fact, the change to cleaner forms of energy is set to create more employment in the next coming decades as noted by Adnan Z. Amin, Director-General of IRENA. “Fundamentally, this data supports our analysis that decarbonisation of the global energy system can grow the global economy and create up to 28 million jobs in the sector by 2050,” Amin stressed.

Locally, the RE sector can create plenty of jobs for the Filipinos, too.

The  Greenpeace report “Green is Gold: How renewable energy can save us money and generate jobs, in 2013, noted that the Philippines, being a tropical country can generate as much as   4.5 to 5.5 kWh/m2/day. Data collected by the research showed that a 10 MW solar power plant usually employs 1000 people during the construction phase that lasts for six months and additional 100 full-time employees.
And this is just for solar power.

Overall, Greenpeace’s report found that the RE sector in the country can provide as much as 6.3 million jobs by 2030. Plus, renewable power in the Philippines can create some 62,625 jobs for every 7.828 RE projects for development

Unfortunately, unless we can fix the problems in the sector, then we cannot expect to reap the full benefits of RE including providing more employment for the Filipino workers.

Inconsistent and unfavorable policies to developers hinder the sector from reaping the economic benefits of harnessing more power from natural sources. The IRENA report stressed this point when it noted: “Employment trends and patterns are shaped by a wide range of technical, economic and policy-driven factors. Where policies become less favorable to renewable energy, change abruptly or invite uncertainty, the result can be job losses or lack of new job creation.”

The developments in the last few months have been a testament to the uncertainty in the energy sector. Just last December, the Commission on Audit suspended the four commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission or ERC.  A bill in Congress is seeking to abolish the commission was filed in the lower house after. By February, the Court of Appeals’ granted a temporary restraining order stopping the suspension. The conclusion of this saga remains to be seen.

Plus, we are also dealing with the cha-cha of our government or back and forth of our government in increasing the shares of renewables in our power mix. The Energy Department had a goal of sourcing 35 percent of our overall power needs from RE by 2030 and later pushed the deadline further to 2040.

In fact, in the next decade, the share of coal is set to increase by 10 percent as noted by Fitch-owned, BMI “The share of coal [is]actually increasing over our 10-year forecast period—from just under 50 percent in 2017 to over 55 percent by 2027,” BMI noted. What’s worse is that the contribution of renewables in our energy mix will likely decrease to 16 percent in 2027 from 20 percent in 2020 according to the study.

These numbers do not reflect our goal to source more power from renewable energy. So, we are unlikely to generate more jobs from the RE sector if this projection materializes.

Aside from missing out on having lower energy costs and helping our environment, the Philippines is likely to miss out on the opportunity of providing additional jobs from the development of more renewable energy plants.

If we can only get our act together, then we can surely reap the benefit of having more jobs from harnessing more power from renewables especially since the Philippines is blessed with overflowing natural resources. Doing so will reduce the burden on Filipino households and provide individuals with more jobs and higher disposable income which Filipinos need and deserve.

References:

Greenpeace report “Green is Gold: How renewable energy can save us money and generate jobs

IRENA report, Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review 2018

http://www.manilatimes.net/coal-top-55-ph-power-mix-2027/377594/

Honoring Commitments: A Hot Warning

The historic 2015 Paris climate agreement saw world leaders committing to limit the average global temperature rise to “well below 2°C” above pre-industrial levels to combat climate change and its effects.

However, more than two years after the signing of the accord, the International Renewable Energy Agency or IRENA notes that “current emission trends are not on track to meet that goal.” In its report, the Global Energy Transformation: A Roadmap to 2050, released last April, the agency stressed that current and planned policies of governments are far from achieving their emission reduction targets. Fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal would still dominate the global energy mix in the next decades.

The Energy agency stressed that the goal of keeping the world’s temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius is technically feasible. But it is imperative to scale up renewable energy (RE) at least six times faster so that the world can start hitting the goals set out in the Paris Agreement. “Global energy system must undergo a profound transformation from one largely based on fossil fuel to one that enhances efficiency and is based on renewable energy,” the report added.

The report also emphasized that all countries can grow the proportion of RE in their overall energy use. According to IRENA’s global roadmap, the REmap, nations can source 60 percent or more of their total energy consumption from renewable energy. After all, the world would need to increase the share of renewable energy in the power sector from 25 % in 2017 to as much as 85% by 2050. “If we are to decarbonize global energy fast enough to avoid the most severe impacts of climate change, renewables must account for at least two-thirds of total energy by 2050,” IRENA Director-General Adnan Amin said.

To accomplish this feat, new approaches to the power system, planning, system and market operations, regulations and public policy must take place IRENA stressed

The Energy agency also noted that all regions of the world would benefit from the energy transformation. Areas like East Asia, Southern Africa, S. Europe and Western Europe are set to have high welfare gains from this transition through reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

So, it’s not only the Philippines that’s having a difficult time in meeting the goals set by world leaders in the Paris agreement since there is a need to undergo a major shift to cleaner forms of energy around the world.

Unfortunately, the world’s lack of action in fighting climate change will hurt vulnerable regions like Southeast Asia.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican and the Director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) last year warned that Southeast Asia might end up suffering from daily extreme temperatures if the world keeps us with high emission level where “All of the tropics will develop conditions that physiologically, humans cannot live outside anymore.”

His study, “A Region at Risk: The Human Dimensions of Climate Change in Asia and the Pacific” showed that it is possible for temperature to increase to 1.7 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2030, up to 2.7 degrees by 2050 and even up to 4 degrees by 2070 or the temperature “where you would collapse.”

This means that the Philippines and its neighbors could “see a complete shift in living condition” where people would be forced to flee their homes. The Nobel Prize winner further added that “You would actually have to give up the Philippines altogether….Unless you put the entire population into a shopping mall, which would be a very big mall,”

This summer, the Filipinos have already endured warm temperature with the heat index reaching 46.8 8°C in Sangley Point in Cavite. Our weather bureau, PAGASA, classifies heat index temperatures from 41 to 54°C as dangerous where “heat cramps and heat exhaustion are likely” and that “heat stroke is probable with continued activity.”

 

dried land

Dried-up rice field in Cavite as heat index this summer reaches dangerous levels. Photo c/o of philstar.com

 

Can you imagine having to endure warmer temperature than the ones we have this summer? As Schellnhuber stressed, we Filipinos will be unable to live outdoors if we all fail to limit our GHG emissions.

The problems of Boaracay may not be limited to the quality of the water alone. If we do not do anything about climate change soon, sea levels will rise in the coming century by as much as 1.4 meters most likely engulfing the not only Boracay but our other lovely islands as well.

Clearly, there is a pressing need for us to do our share in limiting the average global temperature rise to the desired level as we are the ones who will suffer from the effects of climate change. Fortunately for the Philippines, it is possible to help reduce GHG emissions by relying more on cleaner forms of energy.

In fact, the country can supplement its power needs with renewables by 57 percent to 60 percent by 2040 with the right policies according to research from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). “The Philippines’s current energy-supply mix must be diversified to minimize import dependency on fossil fuels and meet the country’s energy needs,” said Alam Hossain Mondal, a researcher at IFPRI and lead author of the study. And as I have repeatedly stated in the past, the impact of reliance on fossil fuel hits our ordinary households. The weakening of the peso and increasing coal prices will adversely affect the ordinary Filipino.

He further added that failure to add more RE in the power mix would result in greater fossil fuel dependency by an average rate of seven percent per year. As a result, CO2 emissions could reach 144 million tons by 2040 from the 43 million tons recorded in 2014.

Indeed, it is time to pay attention to how we can help the world limit the average global temperature rise. Yes, the Philippines and even its neighbors’ contribution GHG emissions may be negligible compared to advanced countries. But since the country and its neighbors are at risk if we fail to mitigate the effects of climate change, then it would be beneficial for us to help reduce our GHG emission.

It is time for us to exert our best effort to honor our commitment in the Paris Agreement. And it starts by sourcing more power from cleaner sources.

References:

https://www.irena.org/publications/2018/Apr/Global-Energy-Transition-A-Roadmap-to-2050

https://businessmirror.com.ph/ifpri-phl-could-supplement-57-60-of-its-energy-needs-with-renewables-by-2040/

http://www.interaksyon.com/expert-warns-with-no-cap-on-greenhouse-gas-emissions-going-outdoors-will-be-deadly-by-2100/

http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scitech/weather/650902/heat-index-over-41-degrees-in-several-areas-across-phl/story/

The Path to 100

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.

10891-cobardor-island-solar-panels-lines-wide-angle

Our government must now seriously consider using RE for off-grid islands. Photo c/o ADB

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 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 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.

References:

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

 

 

 

 

 

My New Year Wishes

This holiday is the time to reflect on the past year as well hope and pray for a better one. So, while wearing my renewable energy developer hat, let me share my new year wish list.

Top on my agenda for 2018 is the resolution of the ERC issue. Just last month four commissioners were suspended, which left the energy sector in limbo. This means that the sector is left paralyzed and this does not augur well for the New Year. 

Legal experts tell me that the basis for their suspension is skating on a very thin ice. And many are concluding that the move reeks of political vendetta. If these are true, then it is a development that does not bode well for our country. This undermines the very integrity of the regulatory framework and will bring about uncertainties on the security of investments in the sector. And this, obviously, will spell disaster for the entire economy. 

Equally important is for the players in the sector to realize important role of renewable energy (RE) on the economy. Yes, environmental sustainability is a crucial aspect, but using RE has a more significant benefit for households and businesses: the minimization of risk and lowering of power cost. This approach goes beyond the “least-cost” traditional view of energy planning. With the state of geopolitics, energy security and lowering of prices should be on the top agenda of the regulators today. Renewable energy has to be a priority. 

Related to risk minimization is the diversification of energy supply. Coal cannot and should not be relied upon solely for our energy needs. Natural gas has an important role to play in the country. Today, we source over 2,500 MW of our power needs from natural gas.  We cannot expect coal to replace that capacity when Malampaya runs out in seven years; Coal just does not have the physical characteristics intrinsic to natural gas. It is time to seriously consider how to develop Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Unfortunately, a monopsony like MERALCO is not easily swayed to buy such a massive capacity of LNG. It is imperative for our government to be more creative in finding ways to introduce LNG into the country.

The proposal to have an Independent Market Operator (IMO) is long overdue. However, aside from the IMO, we should also have an Independent System Operator (ISO) to ensure complete independence in the dispatch and operations of the power network.

 Finally, the world will be going towards a phase of distributed generation and smart grids. The government must prepare for this by providing robust telecommunication and internet infrastructure since the current internet speed in the country is just unacceptable. Our telecom and internet should be vastly improved.

 Happy New Year, everyone!

A Growing Consensus

There is a growing consensus among energy players and experts around the world that the best path forward to a sustainable energy and clean energy is to combine renewable energy with natural gas. Unless an alternative type of fuel is found, or until battery storage (or similar technologies) become economically feasible, this may be the case.

For one, Royal Dutch Shell, Europe’s biggest energy company is investing heavily in liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants and developing a market for it. Shell currently has various LNG projects scattered in practically every continent.

Now why the massive investment on LNG? According to Maarten Wetselaar, Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s director of integrated gas and new energies, its because “We are deeply convinced that the end-point energy mix that provides cheap, or at least affordable, reliable and clean energy to everybody will consist of renewable power, biofuels, and natural gas.”

He added that that the company will go full speed with investments projects that can produce the cheapest LNG.

As early as 2012, Shell’s CEO, Peter Voser already announced that the firm would invest some $20 billion in the natural gas around the world in the next three years.

Shell isn’t alone in its belief that renewables should be combined with natural gas.

Craig Ivey, president of US Energy firm, Consolidated Edison Inc, stressed that the US shift to RE like wind and solar is feasible if there is greater reliance on natural gas. Consolidated Edison Inc. provides electric service to some 3.3 million customers and gas service to roughly 1.1 million customers in New York City and Westchester County in the US

Ivey added that REs could account for half of New York’s energy needs by 2030 only with the help of natural gas.

But energy company officials are not the only ones to have this conclusion. A study published recently by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that natural gas power plants that can fire up quickly must be used to meet the cut emissions and energy stable supply.

Author’s of the study, “Bridging The Gap: Do Fast Reacting Fossil Technologies Facilitate Renewable Energy Diffusion?” stressed that “Renewables and fast-reacting fossil technologies appear as highly complementary and that they should be jointly installed to meet the goals of cutting emissions and ensuring a stable supply.”

I have to agree with these experts as adding more natural gas helps in ensuring a stable energy supply through diversification.

 

Shell LNG

Adding more natural gas to the power mix is key to achieving energy diversification. Photo c/o https://www.green4sea.com

 

According to Andy Stirling, a Professor of Science & Technology Policy at the University of Sussex, there are three basic properties when it comes to diversification: variety, balance and disparity.

In the context of energy systems planning, variety is about the number of energy supply options available. And having more variety of energy types means that there is greater diversity in the system.

On the other hand, balance pertains to the reliance on each option available where the system is considered as more diverse if there is more balance across energy choices while disparity refers to the differences in each option. There is more diversity in the energy supply system when options are more disparate.

This is why we need to make use of various energy types for our energy mix.So far, we depend heavily on coal to meet our ancillary needs. According to the Department of Energy, last year, coal accounted for 48 percent of our energy needs while some 22 percent came from natural gas.

Obviously, our energy supply is far from diverse given the numbers above. This is why we need to develop and increase the share of natural gas in our energy mix. We can lower our reliance on coal, and use more natural gas for our ancillary need as we add more renewable energy mix.

Keep in mind that both wind and solar power are intermittent. Thus, we need to beef up on our ancillary services to maintain the correct direction and flow of power as well as to address the imbalance between the supply and demand on the grid. And for that we can utilize more LNG rather than always turning to traditional power sources for our ancillary needs.

After all, there are advantages in using natural gas. For one, natural gas is three times more useful compared to conventional power. It is highly efficient as around 90 percent of natural gas produced can be converted to useful energy.

Natural gas is less harmful to the environment, too since its main component, methane, results in lesser carbon emission. LNG’s carbon dioxide emissions are 30 percent less than oil and 45 percent lower than other conventional fuels.

Plus, the death print of natural is less than coal according to energy expert James Conca who defined death print as “the number of people killed by one kind of energy or another per kilowatt hour (kWh) produced”. Natural gas death print is 4,000 significantly less than coal’s 100,000.

We have so much to gain by developing our LNG to replace coal-fired plants in the country. Adding more LNG will make our energy supply system become more diverse while helping us achieve our goal of helping the world become a less polluted place.

In the long-term, however, maybe indigenous, sustainable and therefore renewable energy may be the way to go.

References:

http://www.reuters.com/article/usa-property-coned-energy-idUSL1N1IY1DK

https://www.cnbc.com/id/49841864

fuel.https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-06/shell-seeks-to-boost-lng-demand-as-canada-in-mix-for-new-plant

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/08/11/turns-out-wind-and-solar-have-a-secret-friend-natural-gas/?utm_term=.dbf4c1935ceb

https://www.doe.gov.ph/electric-power/2016-philippine-power-situation-report

Diversity and Sustainable Energy Transitions: Multicriteria Diversity Analysis of Electricity Portfolios By Andy Stirling

 

Are We Getting Any Closer? Revisiting our Foreign Ownership Rules

IMG_0008

Changing our constitution to allow  more foreign investors is a must if we are to succeed in developing our nation. Hence, we must be fast  in doing so if we are to take advantage of the global development in RE including falling prices.

As early as last year, President Rodrigo Duterte already announced his plans to open various industries to foreign players.

In a speech made during a visit to New Zealand last year, the president said “The only way to make this country move faster to benefit the poor is really to open up the communications, the airwaves and the entire energy sector. My decision now is to open the Philippine economy to other players.

These days, foreign ownership of companies is in the headlines as the government is set to release the upcoming Foreign Investment Negative List ( FINL). The FINL defines which investment areas of the country are still off-limits to foreign investments and open to 40%  foreign ownership. 

Unfortunately, the government can only do so much with its FINL as they need to work within what’s allowed by our constitution.  Perhaps it’s also time to make amendments to the constitution given that times have changed. In this day and age of technology, we need to be more competitive. Unfortunately for us, our laws have not been updated to keep up with the times.

Many economists have already stressed the need for significant changes in our constitutional provisions on ownership

Just recently, former National Economic Development Authority or NEDA chief Cielito Habito has emphasized the need for these changes. “The hope is we will be willing to amend economic provisions of the constitution because that is what really is holding us back. It is outdated. Many of the restrictions in foreign advertising, mass media, education, are really out of date. Given the technology in recent years, those rationales don’t apply anymore to the information age,” he said.  

He further added that we are being left behind by our Southeast Asian neighbors because of the lack of participation of foreign investors. “The reason we continue we to  lag behind our neighbors, in spite of dramatic improvements already made, is still because of these legal constraints to more foreign participation in our industries.”  

The President back then said that he wants changes in the “regulatory requirement and institutional arrangements to hasten the entry of new players in the power industry and energy sector.

And I cannot wait for these changes to take place. We need this if we are determined to shift to cleaner sources of energy. Our progress in moving to more renewables for our energy has been quite slow. We are not getting any closer to our goal of using more RE for our needs. In fact, we seem to be heading in an opposite direction as coal fired power plants are seen to dominate our energy mix in the next 10 years as noted by BMI Research of the Fitch Group. The study revealed that 90% of the 7,300 MW of power projects in the pipeline are coal-fired plants. 

As I have been saying, the review of foreign ownership rules has been long overdue.  I have been vocal in my desire to open up the energy sector to more foreign investors, particularly the renewable energy sector. Mainly because putting up the RE plant has a high up-front cost and as such very few businesses can venture into this area. 

The government must consider limiting the ownership of foreigners of the renewable resources but increasing their ownership in owning the equipment required to convert these resources. 

Around the world costs of RE technologies are dropping. If we want to take advantage of this development in the hope of increasing the RE’s share in our energy mix, then we must act quickly and make the necessary changes in the foreign ownership rules. 

References:

http://www.investphilippines.info/arangkada/constitutional-amendments-needed-to-boost-fdi/

http://bworldonline.com/constitutional-amendments-needed-boost-fdi/