Going Green: A Glance at the Philippine Energy Landscape

JKKJNMitigating climate change has become one of the greatest challenges of the century. Without doubt, climate change has caused extreme weather conditions among other negative impacts.

In the Philippines, the effects of climate change are only aggravated by the location and lack of disaster-preparedness.1 The Philippines is an archipelago surrounded by the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean which will only become hotter due to climate change. Unfortunately, this means that more sea water will evaporate. This will then lead to stronger typhoons.2 And, because the Philippines has no significant physical barriers to typhoons, typhoons will become catastrophes. Moreover, the logistics of any disaster risk reduction plan become a nightmare due to the several small islands.1 Given that the Philippines is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, the steadfast call for a shift to renewable energy has become even more relevant.

However, even if the whole Philippines ran on clean energy, it would still not assuage climate change because the Philippines is not a major contributor to annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the contribution of other nations to GHG emissions extends beyond their national borders. For this reason, some push the burden of climate change to the top emitters of GHG, most of which are developed countries that have advanced using fossil fuels in the previous century. However, that is a faulty strategy. A look at the cumulative emissions – the more accurate parameter to use for a nation’s contribution to climate change – of countries shows that a large chunk of cumulative emissions has been caused by the total activity of countries not included in the top 10 annual GHG emitters.3 Hence, these countries cannot shirk their responsibility to reduce, if not eliminate, their annual GHG even if developed countries with high cumulative emissions have the larger burden to shoulder the effects of climate change.

Aside from climate change, a much-needed stable and large power supply establishes the case for renewable energy. Renewable energy is now cost-competitive with fossil fuels  such that sole dependence on these conventional energy sources is not a sound decision. This signifies that creating a diverse profile of energy sources is no longer unrealistic. Moreover, a dependence on various sources would help minimize the frequency of rotating brownouts.

All of these factors create the future of energy: an energy matrix. This future is precisely what Solutions Using Renewable Energy, Inc. offers.  Since 2004, they have completed solar, biogas, biomass, and wind energy projects. However, they still do not have any geothermal plant as it requires a significant amount of investment – wells have to be drilled, and hitting a well that provides a large energy yield is also a gamble. In spite of this, they have completed several projects. One of the projects that is a snippet of the future is the Green Island. Green Island is a small island in Palawan that is powered by several energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass (coconut), and fossil fuels. The electricity generated even powers an ice flake machine and a desalination system.

While it would be ideal to have several Green Islands in the Philippines, it would not be realistic to see several popping up anytime soon. In 2015, 74.5% of the total power generation in the Philippines was from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil).4 Increasing the renewable energy percentage in this energy mix is possible, but it would take time. Several factors contribute to the rate of progress. One factor is that the Philippine is an archipelago. It is very labor-intensive and expensive to install several hybrid plants in all the islands. Even operation and maintenance would be costly because you would need to station an employee on the island or train a local.

This may seem like quite a sad outlook, but there are many things that can also be done to speed up renewable energy adoption. Of course, investing in the industry would always help. One overlooked solution is education. Undergraduate programs that specialize in renewable energy are non-existent. With more creative young minds dabbling in renewable energy, it is more likely for innovation to occur in this industry and within the Philippines. However, because this solution would require a decision made by government and educational institutions, it would be better – if you truly are interested in renewable energy – to create a DIY educational plan. You can apply for an internship with a NGO, government office, company, or startup. There are also several learning platforms on the internet. Just go to Coursera and MIT OpenCourseWare, and you’ll find topics on energy. As corny and as obvious as it sounds, you can’t wait for things to change; you, along with everybody else, have to work for anything to happen.

References:

[1] The Climate Reality Project. (2016, January 19). How is climate change affecting the Philippines?. Retrieved from: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/how-climate-change-affecting-philippines

[2] Than, K. (2006, March 16). Warmer seas creating stronger hurricanes, study confirms. Live Science. Retrieved from: http://www.livescience.com/642-warmer-seas-creating-stronger-hurricanes-study-confirms.html

[3] Ge, M., Friedrich, J., & Damassa, T.. (2014). 6 graphs explain the world’s top 10 emitters. Retrieved from: http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/11/6-graphs-explain-world%E2%80%99s-top-10-emitters

[4] Department of Energy. (2015). Gross Power Generation by Plant Type* in MWh. Retrieved from:http://www.doe.gov.ph/electric-power-statistics/philippine-power-statistics/2996-2015-power-statistics

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