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Championing a brighter, more efficient and sustainable energy system for the Philippines

The milestone of Department of Energy’s (DoE) 50th effective year in service to the Filipino people comes with daunting challenges.

For one, as the country moves forward in its ambitious plans for growth, aiming to become recognized as a high-income economy by 2045 at the latest, energy will only become more important. The country needs to build more buildings, create more jobs, and move more people away from poverty — all of which necessitate a flawless, efficient power grid.

Yet, the looming threat of climate change grows ever more urgent, and global pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions — which the energy sector contributes the lion’s share of — puts the country in a dilemma. The Philippines’ energy sector must be prepared to adapt and overcome future challenges, or else be left behind as the rest of the world moves into a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.

This puts the DoE at a central role in the development of the country in the years to come. More than ever, the agency needs to fully commit to its vision of becoming “a globally-competitive agency that powers up Filipino communities through clean, efficient, robust and sustainable energy systems that will create wealth, propel industries and transform the lives of men and women and the generations to come.”

In commitment to this goal, and in celebration of the agency’s 50th anniversary, it has announced a month-long observance of the National Energy Consciousness Month (NECM) for 2022 to focus on energy sustainability.

With the theme “DoE @ 50: Spearheading a Sustainable Energy Future,” the NECM’s annual observance seeks to call for a sustainable energy future aligned with the United Nation’s (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 which targets universal access to energy, increasing renewable energy’s share in the energy mix, and doubling the rate of energy efficiency improvement.

The UN’s SDGs from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

At its core, the 17 SDGs are an urgent call for action by all countries, including the Philippines, to recognize that ending poverty and other societal issues must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth — all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.

Particular to NECM, Goal 7 is about ensuring access to clean and affordable energy. Accessible energy is key to the development of agriculture, business, communications, education, healthcare and transportation; and the lack of which poses difficult obstacles to economic and human development.

According to the UN, the latest data suggest that the world continues to advance towards sustainable energy targets. Nevertheless, the current pace of progress is insufficient to achieve Goal 7 by 2030. Huge disparities in access to modern sustainable energy persist.

Renewables push

For its part, the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. aims to light the way in accelerating and expanding the development of the country’s domestic energy sources. Foremost, the country is accelerating the development of renewable energy to increase its share in the power mix from the current 22% to 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2040. Currently, the share of renewable energy (RE) in power generation is 22%.

One of the most recent landmark moves by the agency in pursuant of this target is allowing the RE sector to full foreign ownership. Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla last month signed a circular amending the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 to allow 100% foreign capital in RE projects. Previously, Section 19 of the IRR limited foreign ownership of RE projects to 40%.

“With the impressive amount of interest, the DoE has been receiving both from the local and foreign investors in RE development, particularly in the offshore wind potential, the State can now directly undertake the exploration, development, production and utilization of RE resources or it can enter into RE service or operating contracts with Filipino and/or foreign citizen or Filipino and/or foreign-owned corporations or associations,” Mr. Lotilla had said in a statement.

In the case of hydropower, he noted that the “appropriation of waters direct from the source shall continue to be subject to foreign ownership in the Water Code.”

“The country has a vast potential in RE development,” Mr. Lotilla said, adding that the government expects higher investments in the sector that will create much-needed jobs.

The Marcos administration also opened the topic of reintroducing nuclear energy into the country’s power grid in the name of energy security, signing Executive Order No. 164 adopting a national position for a Nuclear Energy Program (NEP).

The DoE noted that the development of the program will establish a clear national policy which would withstand administration changes, and one that will ensure strict adherence to all relevant standards, particularly those from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The agency will also hold strong public consultations and spearhead information campaigns to promote scientific findings on the benefits of nuclear energy use.

Emerging technology

Furthermore, the government plans to make full use of emerging technology to achieve its sustainable energy goals. Alternative fuel sources such as green hydrogen, ammonia, and biowaste are currently being explored to help in the energy transition.

“Sustainable energy planning involves the preparation of short-, medium- and long-term energy policies and plans encompassing the exploration, development and production of indigenous energy resources from conventional and renewable sources, promotion of alternative fuels and technologies, promotion of energy efficiency and conservation and implementation of sector reforms in the downstream oil and power industries,” the DoE said in a statement.

“As energy demand is anticipated to grow significantly over the years, it is incumbent for the energy sector to pursue all means to develop the country’s indigenous (local) energy resources. The DoE recognizes the fact that the country will remain dependent on conventional fuels for many years to come to address its growing energy requirements. As such, the conduct of energy contracting rounds is seen as an effective strategy to bring in critical investments for the exploration, development and production of conventional energy such as oil, gas and coal.”

This year’s NECM is only the first of the DoE’s series of energy-related campaigns across the country through energy literacy and awareness among Filipinos. These programs aim to highlight the collective role of the government and the Filipino people in achieving a sustainable energy future.

In 2007, Presidential Proclamation No. 1427 was issued declaring December of every year as NECM, to coincide with the DOE’s anniversary. The NECM provides venue to create public awareness through information campaign to bring the people toward judicious conservation and efficient utilization of energy.

“Maximizing the use of our indigenous energy resources is imperative for energy security and sustainability. Our country has tremendous potential for renewable energy — such as solar, wind and ocean sources. Steadily, we are enhancing our renewable energy policies that would drive us our path toward energy sustainability,” Mr. Lotilla said. — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran

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