Renewables in the Philippines

Here’s the lowdown on climate change. It is real. You may deny it all you want but it won’t simply go away. The increase of global temperatures leads to catastrophic weather disasters. Greenhouse gas emissions are the culprit. Around 50% of which come from the energy sector powered mainly by coal and other fossil fuels. Thus the campaign to shift to renewables.

The energy mix of the Philippines is composed of 30% renewable energy (RE) installed capacity, 30% natural gas, 30% coal, and 10% oil. According to Atty. Jay Layug, Chairman of National Renewable Energy Board, the target for 2030 is to increase RE installed capacity from 30% to 50%. This is possible as the country has a lot of potential for renewables namely biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, and wind.

However, as explained by Atty. Layug in a forum, there are challenges and mostly it’s the cost. Coal with its Php 3 to Php 4 generation rate is ideal for base load (minimum level of demand on an electrical grid over 24 hours). Hydro and geothermal could compete with coal cost-wise but it’s not easy to build dams plus there are also NCIP (National Commission on Indigenous Peoples) issues to deal with. For geothermal, we have already tapped most of our reservoir.

How about solar? We can use this energy source at daytime. It can be stored but the price of battery is prohibitive. Nevertheless, solar can replace the more expensive diesel.

We should understand that the low cost of coal is because the negative impacts to health and the environment are not captured in the price. Carbon pricing, putting cost to carbon pollution, can give us a clearer picture of how costly coal really is.

We can still develop as a nation if we stop using coal and other fossil fuels. If we think long-term, in the context of sustainable development, it can be done.

Ratifying the Paris Agreement

Climate change is real. I suppose we have already established that. And the Paris Agreement, though not perfect, is a welcome attempt to combat climate change.

One key point of the Paris Agreement, as summarized by The Guardian, is limiting the temperature rise to 1.5C. The layman may not understand how that is important but let’s just say that a mere 0.85C increase of temperature spells death through catastrophic weather occurrences so we could imagine how worse it could get. We have, however, already reached 1C and according to data, this would continue on.

There are commitments of reducing carbon emissions, the culprit of climate change, but they are simply promises. Reduction of emissions would in a sense, stymie our development as claimed by President Duterte although the agreement recognizes that peaking will take longer for developing countries. So I guess that allows us to continue trashing the planet? Well there is also a provision on financial support expected to help developing countries adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy.

The Philippines is one of the 197 nations which signed the Paris Agreement. However, we haven’t ratified it yet. To date, 92 parties already did. For a vulnerable developing country such as ours, ratifying the Paris Agreement would let us fully engage and negotiate with other parties so that gaps in the treaty may be addressed.

Again, the Paris Agreement is far from perfect but it’s better than nothing. At the end of the day, curbing climate change is dependent on humanity’s collective political will. We either wallow in the blame game or we can choose to take action. We decide.


Take action now and sign the petition asking for the Philippines to ratify the Paris Agreement.


Musings on Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project

Back in college, I read Al Gore’s book, “Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit” and I was amazed and inspired by how passionate he was about promoting climate change awareness. Today, I had the opportunity to witness his presentation during the 31st Climate Reality Leadership Corps training held in Manila.

Al Gore

It was sad to once again be confronted by the realities of climate change. Why did we allow our planet to be in its current state? Global warming, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, typhoons, droughts. The presentation which included video clips of raging floods, disintegrating glaciers, forest fires, and people crying as they talk about lost lives and properties due to natural disasters was heartbreaking. What’s worst, as Pope Francis, in his Encyclical letter, states, the gravest effect of all attacks on the environment are suffered by the poorest.

Global systems vulnerable to climate are food supply, water, health, and infrastructure. Al Gore further stressed that there is a risk of food security in the Philippines because of climate change.

I know Al Gore didn’t want me to feel depressed but this is the inconvenient truth we oh, so try to ignore. It is real. It is urgent. But it is also solvable. One of the solutions Gore focused on is shifting from coal to renewable source of energy. Incidentally, the solar power company I’m working for, SolarPacific, would be inaugurating its first solar farm in Misamis Oriental this week so I’m happy that somehow we are contributing to the solution.

The 12.5 MWp Kirahon Solar Power Plant at Misamis Oriental.

And speaking of solutions, I remember how environmental advocates in Baguio, headed by one of my mentors, Michael Bengwayan, an environmental activist, are organizing a march for the trees on March 21 celebrating the International Day of Forest.

There are so many initiatives being done to stop climate change. The 650 strong participants of the Climate Reality Project, have been pitching in and have committed to continue contributing to the solution.

Al Gore said it best, “The will to act is in itself a renewable resource.” May we continue harnessing this resource.