Post Yolanda, the Philippines needs a decentralized energy future

Press release - December 6, 2013
Manila— Greenpeace today welcomed the Philippine government’s moves to immediately start rehabilitation and reconstruction work urgently needed in Eastern Visayas, following the aftermath of supertyphoon Yolanda (international name Haiayan).

At the same time the environment group cautioned the government from repeating mistakes from the past and advised newly-appointed rehabilitation head Panfilo “Ping” Lacson to look at the work ahead as a new opportunity to establish sustainable climate-resilient communities using renewable energy (RE) systems.

“Yolanda caught us completely unprepared forcing us to deal with serious consequences of climate change. Aside from the human tragedy, we also have to deal with the socio-economic impacts,” said Amalie Obusan, Regional Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia. “Because the work ahead is massive, critical decisions will be made for the reconstruction and repair of energy systems in the devastated provinces. And this is where RE can make a difference.”

Typhoon Yolanda cost the country an estimated 35 billion Pesos worth of damages to infrastructure and agriculture. Power systems are mostly down with 1,959 transmission facilities partially or fully destroyed.

Greenpeace said that solar panels can make a huge difference to disaster-hit areas, when power lines are down for many days, if not months. There would be cost savings for the entire archipelago and the size of the savings would be commensurate to the number of households and businesses whose partial or total energy resilience would make them suffer less in the aftermath of storm-induced black-outs.

Obusan said a de-centralized energy system, through renewable energy is needed to power communities, especially those living off the main grid. A good example are small scale solar energy systems which have the ability to foster a small-town energy revolution by and for people, families, communities, farms, and small and medium sized businesses. A million homes with solar in the Philippines could raise installed capacity of solar considerably[1].

Greenpeace recommends the following for the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas:

—Light up communities through renewable energy technologies. In order to bring energy services to remote, off-grid, typhoon-affected communities in Visayas, this should be one of the principal goals. Communities that are located outside of the nearest electricity service areas should be energized using stand-alone RE technology such as solar PV and micro-hydro systems.

—Include capacity-building for energy projects by creating partnerships with communities and providing technical assistance.

—Provide micro-credit and consulting for the promotion of off-grid, decentralized RE technologies.

—Financially support local entrepreneurs who could either benefit from energy access, or supply their communities with renewable energy services.

—Institute an RE program in schools. With RE-powered multi-media technology, teachers and students will have the opportunity for better teaching and learning conditions.

“The ongoing reconstruction will give the government an opportunity to rethink energy systems in these devastated areas. We hope Mr. Lacson will listen to our advice and do what he can to turn this tragedy into an opportunity. Now is the time to rebuild our towns and cities using greener and sustainable energy systems that are climate-resilient,” said Obusan.

For more information:

Amalie Obusan, Regional Climate and Energy Campaigner, , +639175216804

Therese Salvador, Media Campaigner, , +639178228734