Green can bring us gold: renewable energy can bring jobs, cost savings, and money to the Philippines.
However, in this country, ordinary citizens, business people, government workers, and even the president, have been bombarded with misinformation about renewable energy for decades.
A few examples of outright lies, often peddled by polluting industries: "Renewable energy is expensive,” or, “RE is a pie in the sky dream of treehuggers," and the most popular, "Coal is cheap."
This report is designed to fight such misleading rhetoric, debunk myths, and provide data-driven, balanced information about renewable energy in the Philippines. It lays out how renewable energy can save the government money, bring jobs to the country, create wealth, expand access to energy for the most vulnerable in poor communities, and foster national energy independence.
"We need to discover what works for us, what gives us global advantage. Find out what is best in our society and nurture it." - Sir Paul Callaghan
The Philippines stands today at a historic crossroads with respect to energy. Will we go clean or go dirty? Invest in the past or invest in the future?
In addition to ten existing coal fired power plants, there are 26* proposed in the pipeline, which would bring us to 33 coal fired power plants. At least three possible new plants are in the middle of urban communities where they can inflict maximum damage. Yet hope remains. The government has also made it possible for renewable energy to emerge in a big way.
However, several crucial positives emerge:
Ever since the 1970s, in response to the Middle East oil crisis and fuel shortages, the Philippines invested heavily in geothermal and has become an undisputed global leader in geothermal energy, second only to the USA.
Over a third of the country’s total primary energy supply came from renewable energy resources with geothermal providing the lion’s share.
This does not even factor in the many thousands of rural individual “Solar Home Systems” or SHSs, micro-hydro systems and micro-wind turbine energy systems, especially in remote off-grid areas.
Moreover, the government established itself as a frontrunner in Asia with the Renewable Energy Act of 2008. This ambitious Act created a feed-in-tariff and a renewable portfolio standard for run-of-river hydro, modern biomass, wind, solar, and ocean power (but did not focus on geothermal, which is considered a mature industry in the Philippines). This law is far-reaching and tries to expand investment in renewables as well as capacity installation.
The most important recent development for renewable energy in the Philippines is the revolutionary Feed-in Tariff or “FiT.” This is a renewable energy policy offering guaranteed payments on a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour (KW-hour) for emerging renewable energy sources (not geothermal, which is considered an older, more established industry). The policy lays out priority purchase/ transmission of/payment for by grid system operators; and guarantees investments of renewables firms through fixed rates, which end-users will pay for over 20 years. Renewables are considered “must dispatch,” which means they enjoy the benefit of priority dispatch, or connection to the grid.
Investment in clean technology yields 4 times more jobs than investment in oil and yields better-paid jobs. While jobs in the fossil fuel economy were lost during the financial crisis, job growth in the green economy remained strong.
RE technology could help reduce power rates in the Philippines, the highest in Asia. Greenpeace believes that one of the reasons why renewable energy may not be taking off faster in the Philippines is the prevalence of misconceptions that seek to discredit cleaner electricity sources that benefits the many, in order to keep the coal industry profitable for a select few. Green is Gold therefore debunks these misconceptions, maintaining that coal is not cheap, because it brings in additional costs in terms of pollution, reduced agriculture and fishing yields, and damage to health. Every coal plant constructed also means less space for RE investments, and therefore less government savings and less green jobs.