Record Breaking 2018

It’s official: 2018 was the fourth warmest year on record for global temperatures. This is according to various organizations such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the World Meteorological Organization. (WMO). The global average temperature in 2018 is the fourth warmest since 1880 which is just behind years 2016,2017 and 2015.

According to reports, the world was 1.5 Fahrenheit or 0.83 Celsius warmer in 2018 than the average set between years 1951 to 1980.

Naturally, experts are alarmed at the rising global temperature trend as it reflects the effects of climate change. The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years. The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean,” said Petteri Taalas, secretary general of the WMO.  “Many of the extreme weather events are consistent with what we expect from a changing climate…This is a reality we need to face up to. Greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate adaptation measures should be a top global priority,” he added.

Fortunately, there are serious efforts from many countries and even the private sector to meet commitments to the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2015 where leaders agreed to limit global warming to just under two degrees. Various countries and big global firms are in the last three years are working hard to cut down on human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide by shifting to renewable power.

In fact, 2018 was record-breaking too for corporate renewable energy deals.  According to  Business Renewables Center of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), the United States renewables market has almost doubled its figure of corporate off-site deals since 2015.

The contracted capacity for renewables by private firms in the US amounted to 6.43 GW last year. Corporate renewable energy buying came in the form of green power purchases, power purchase agreements, outright project ownership, and green tariffs. 

 

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2018 was the fourth hottest year on record. Photo c/o http://www.mysinchew.com/

Corporate giants AT&T, Facebook, Walmart, Microsoft, and ExxonMobil are the top five firms leading the clean energy purchase. Facebook, the biggest buyer last year closed several deals that amounted to 1,8495 megawatts. And the social media giant is proud of its accomplishment.Facebook is proud to contribute to the record-breaking year of corporate renewable energy deals. We believe companies can and should set big commitments to drive our national transition to a clean energy future,” stressed Rachel Peterson, vice president of data center strategy at Facebook. 

The impressive figures from global brands only show that large firms are serious about their commitment to a sustainable and clean future according to the CEO of RMI Jules Kortenhorst. These companies are not  going to wait for public policy on climate issues to catch up,“ they are taking the initiative to accelerate toward a prosperous, low-carbon economy, he added.

Clean energy investments worldwide in 2018 was also remarkable. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) noted that investments in clean power last year amounted to $332.1 billion. The figure is eight percent lower than the amount recorded in 2017, but BNEF notes that 2018 was the fifth consecutive year that the investment exceeded the $300 billion mark.

China and the US were the two biggest investing countries with investments of $100.1 billion and $64.2 billion, respectively.

Other countries also recorded high increases in their clean energy investments. The Netherlands, for example, had a 60 percent increase in RE investments at $5.6 billion while South Korea’s jump was at 74 percent with investments worth $5 billion. Even our neighbor, Vietnam had impressive 18-fold growth in clean power investments last year.

It’s not surprising of course that the Philippines is not in the list of countries that saw major increases in renewable energy investments. As I have been saying, our regulatory environment and lack of government support for clean power hamper the growth of renewable power development in the country. Nevertheless, as a clean and sustainable power advocate, it’s gratifying to see that global brands and governments understand clearly the value of renewable power. After all, renewable energy is a sustainable business practice that also helps the world combat climate change. And as I have expounded repeatedly, it will lower power cost for everyone.

When will change come to the Philippines?

References:

https://solarindustrymag.com/report-2018-a-record-breaking-year-for-corporate-renewable-energy-deals/

https://about.bnef.com/blog/clean-energy-investment-exceeded-300-billion-2018

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/06/global-temperatures-2018-record-climate-change-global-warming

Ambitious, Admirable and Much Needed

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Spanish Turbines. Spain wants to source all its power needs from renewable sources by 2050. Photo c/o http://www.treehugger.con

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.

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/13/spain-plans-switch-100-renewable-electricity-2050

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-11/30/c_137641641.htm

http://time.com/5466681/climate-change-hottest-year/

Electricity-Sector Opportunities in the Philippines: The Case for Wind- and Solar-Powered Small Island Grids. The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

https://www.bworldonline.com/philippines-rated-among-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change-in-new-moodys-ranking/

We Only Have 12 Years

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The world only has 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. Photo c/o https://www.independent.co.uk

The United Nation (UN) has released a strong and urgent warning: The world only has 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe. And God willing, I will only be 72 by then. My first grandson will only be 12. So, the warning is very personal to me, as it should be to you.

This warning came from the world’s leading climate scientists with the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a result of years of research from the 6,000 scientific studies assessed. The goal of the study was to gather all available scientific literature and make recommendations to help governments in their effort to combat climate change as well as support economic development.

According to the study, the world only has a dozen of years for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 °C and going beyond even by half a degree will mean worsening the risks of floods, droughts, extreme heat and poverty for all of us.

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels, and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” Panmao Zhai, one of the Co-Chairs of IPCC Working Group said.

The report stresses that many climate change impacts can be avoided if the world’s global warming is limited to 1.5°C instead of 2°C as committed in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

For example, the global sea level rise is likely to be 10 cm lower by 2100 if global warming is 1.5°C instead of 2°C. Similarly, around 99 percent of coral reefs would be lost with 2°C while only 70 to 90 percent decline at 1.5°C. Plus, at 2C, the Arctic will be iceless during summer at least once per decade instead of once per century.

The impact on the world will be significant especially for the already vulnerable countries if global warming is not limited to the recommended temperature. The rise of the sea level will force hundreds of millions out of their homes while crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America will enormously diminish.

“Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” Hans-Otto Pörtner, one of the co-chairs of the IPCC Working Group pointed out.

This is a gloomy warning and the most urgent call for drastic changes that are based on the most comprehensive data analysis.

There is still hope, according to the scientists, but swift actions must be made.

“The good news is that some of the kinds of actions that would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5ºC are already underway around the world, but they would need to accelerate,” Valerie Masson-Delmotte, one of the co-chairs of the study stressed.

Drastic steps needed include lowering the global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide carbon dioxide (CO2), which would need to fall by about 45 percent by 2030 from the 2010 levels. By 2050, it should be around ‘net zero’.

So, what do we need to do to cut our CO2?

The study says, one of the ways of cutting CO2 emissions swiftly is to lessen our fossil fuel consumption, the primary producer of greenhouse gasses. Renewable energy sources should dominate the energy mix at 85 percent share of power needs by 2050 if we are to limit our CO2 emissions.

This is not the first time that we have been warned about the harm of failing to act swiftly on global warming. There have been a lot in the last few years except this warning from the UN is based on the most comprehensive study of scientific data.

Indeed, the time to act fast is now. And we can start in our backyard. The Philippines, after all, is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change according to Moody’s. And it does not help that we are not doing much to help the world reduce its CO2 emissions.

The Philippines can heed the call to cut down on greenhouse emissions by diversifying more into renewable energy. We are after all blessed with natural resources to make a transition. It is the lack of political will that prevents us from doing so.

We only need to take a look at how slow the country’s transition to cleaner forms of energy. Our numbers do not show much improvement. For example, on a year-on-year growth, the Philippines coal import volume increased by 16% from 2015 to 2016 and the growth of installed capacities of coal-fired plants climbed by 87% from 2005 to 2016. There’s another 10,423 MW is in the pipeline.

May this warning from scientists serve as a wake-up call to all of us, particularly those who are in charge of making the shift to clean energy possible. Our government only needs to keep in mind that failure to act now is not helping the Filipinos and the rest of the world.

References:

https://www.bworldonline.com/philippines-rated-among-most-vulnerable-to-climate-change-in-new-moodys-ranking/

Press Relese: Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC approved by governments
http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/session48/pr_181008_P48_spm_en.pdf

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.

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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

Getting Closer to The Tipping Point

There have been various predictions on how and when renewable energy will soon displace coal as the most economical choice for the world’s power needs.

Just recently, Bloomberg New Energy Finance Michael Liebrich founder joined energy experts in saying that the time for renewables to take over will soon come. He estimated that renewable energy would gather roughly 86 percent of some $10.2 trillion investments in power generation by the year 2040.

His predictions do not end there. Liebrich further identified two tipping points that will push coal prices and natural gas to become unattractive.

 The first tipping point is “when new wind and solar become cheaper than anything else,” Liebreich said. And this may happen soon. He predicts that it will start by 2025 when it is cheaper to build a Solar PV plant than a coal-powered plant in Japan. Similarly, construction of wind power plants will be less expensive than building coal plants in India by the year 2030.

 The second tipping point, he says, is when operating the present coal and gas plants becomes more expensive than getting energy from wind and solar. This tipping point may take longer than the first and may happen first in Germany and China sometime between 2030 to 2040.

With all these forecasts or predictions, there is no denying that renewables will be the most economical source of energy all over the world.

 It is then crucial for us to seriously consider capitalizing on the price drops of these RE technologies and move fast in transitioning to heavy dependence on coal to renewable energy.

 Aside from being the cleaner form of energy, it is also essential for us to shift to RE because continued dependence on coal and other forms of fossil-fuel will hurt the pockets of our power consumers badly in the future.

 The above predictions only say that RE will be the cheapest option due to the declining cost of RE technology. However, there is another reason why coal will be more expensive for us Filipinos.

 As renewables take over, we can expect that coal and other similar fossil-based technologies will find it hard to acquire financing for their projects. With the growing clamor for greener technologies, it is likely that financial institutions will institute policies that avoid fuel technologies. Plus, of course, the declining costs of RE will make coal less competitive thus, pushing banks to lend–assuming they will– at significantly shorter maturity. The natural consequence is higher annuities. So, it is safe to say that around the world the cost of coal and other fossil fuels would sky-rocket.

We have to keep in mind that the Philippines only produces low-quality coal and our coal-fired plants are constructed for imported coal. In fact, in 2016, the Philippines imported a total of 20.79 million tons of coal, which is 47.8 percent higher than the imported figure in 2015. And a nation that depends heavily on imported coal will surely suffer from expensive power rates in the years to come as coal becomes more expensive in the world market.

 It is indeed time for our regulators and policy-makers to see the writing on the wall. Coal will be more expensive in the future, and our power consumers will pay much higher if we don’t shift our allegiance to RE.

 Our regulars have to act now. Otherwise, we will be paying more for our energy consumption, when in fact, cheaper energy has been abundant and available for us for a long time.

 Reference:

 https://www.rappler.com/views/imho/172064-sun-setting-coal

 https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-09-19/tipping-point-seen-for-clean-energy-as-monster-turbines-arrive

Are We Getting Any Closer? Revisiting our Foreign Ownership Rules

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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/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empowering Small Islands

Ta'u Island

The island of Ta’u in American Samoa now running  on 100% on solar energy. Photo c/o wired.co.uk

It is indeed possible to shift from diesel dependence to renewable energy sources. Such is what happened to two islands in other regions.

The island of Ta’u in American Samoa recently made the headlines as the island was able to shift 100 percent from diesel to solar power. The Ta’u is a small island with somewhere between 200 to 600 residents depending on the season.

Last November, the island was able to go 100% renewable after Elon Musk-owned SolarCity finished the installation of some 5,328 solar panels that can generate 1.410 megawatts (MW) and 60 Tesla large batteries that can energize the island for three straight days without sunlight.

Similarly, news items also carried the accomplishment of Tilos, a small island in Greece, which is it set to become the first island in the Mediterranean to run on solar and wind energy.  Installation of a small photovoltaic park and a single wind turbine and micro-grid for generation and storage is on-going and is expected to change the lives of some 500 residents.

Currently, the island still relies on the oil-based electricity from its neighbor, Kos through the use of a submarine cable. Due to the vulnerability of the cable, power cuts in Tilos happen often.  Project proponents are hopeful that eventually, it will be Tilos that would be able to send some of its excess power to its neighbor Kos because of its shift to renewable.

These stories only prove that the shift to cleaner energy in small islands is indeed possible. There then is still hope for our off-grid islands to end their reliance on diesel and instead use renewable sources for their energy needs.

The Philippines, being an archipelagic country will benefit from looking at the above islands and working double time to power our off-grid islands with renewable sources.

A study by the Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) and Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) has already discussed the economic benefits of using RE to supply the electricity needs in off-grid areas.

To quote the study, “Small island grids powered by solar, wind, and other renewable energy can reduce dependence on expensive imported fossil fuel generation without compromising the availability of power and grid reliability.”

Indeed, the benefits of using renewables, especially in these off-grid islands should not be ignored.

According to the report, “Electricity-Sector Opportunities in the Philippines: The Case for Wind- and Solar-Powered Small Island Grids¬” the Philippines can save as much as P10 billion a year if renewables are used instead of diesel.  This is because 80 percent of the operating costs of power generation in these islands are spent on diesel costs. And as I have pointed out in several posts, reliance on fossil fuels is costly due to oil price spikes.

Research by Professor Shimon Awerbuch, a big advocate for portfolio theory revealed that the oil price spikes from years 2000 to 2004 cost the European Union some €700 billion given the region’s reliance then on oil-powered plants.

Unfortunately, our regulators have been slow in crafting policies that would pave the way for greater renewable energy use in these areas.

The study by the IEEFA and ICSC stressed that there are no incentives for island electric cooperatives to purchase cheaper energy sources given the present system where franchise ratepayers do not benefit from the cost savings as these go exclusively to the missionary fund. Both the Energy Regulatory Commission and National Electrification Administration yet have to change the tariff setting system to encourage electric coops in islands to increase their efficiency and lower their costs.

This is unfortunate. We, after all, have the resources to make the shift to renewable energy. In fact, our country can generate as much as 161.7 watts per square meter given that the Philippines is one of the sunniest countries. But we need to re-think and change our policies and regulations that hinder us from using these resources.

There is a pressing need to review our regulations to address the needs of our citizens in the islands. Hopefully, supportive policies and regulations will help us make better use of resources just like what the islands Ta’u and Tilos have done.

References:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/tau-american-samoa-solar-power-microgrid-tesla-solarcity/

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/jun/15/tilos-greece-renewable-energy-wind-solar-power

Electricity-Sector Opportunities in the Philippines: The Case for Wind- and Solar-Powered Small Island Grids

“Green is Gold: How renewable energy can save us money and generate jobs”. Greenpeace for NREL figures