Philippines looks to renewables to boost rural electrification

The Philippines Government has changed energy regulations in order to stimulate the growth of the country's renewable energy market and to accelerate the electrification of its rural areas.

Previous regulations applied to both renewables and to fossil fuel power stations. The changes are designed to make renewable energy more attractive to the private investment and international donor communities by eliminating many regulations that imposed costs on potential investors in renewable energy projects.

Policy revisions include removing obstacles to biomass cogeneration facilities, and streamlining approvals processes for small hydro-electric facilities.

Announcing the changes, Philippines Energy Secretary Mario Tiaoqui said the Philippines Government looks forward to “an accelerated implementation of our rural electrification programme through the use of cleaner and more environmentally friendly renewable energy.”

The changes were based on a set of recommendations developed with the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) through its Philippines Renewable Energy Project.

“The changes are a significant step in making it easier for the private sector to invest in clean, renewable energy systems in the Philippines,” said Paul Galen, a senior policy analyst at NREL. “The rapid implementation of these changes by the Philippines Department of Energy is a good indication of their commitment to renewable energy development.”

A mountainous country made up of more than 7,000 islands, the geography of the Philippines is well suited for using solar, wind and hydro-electric power sources. “Renewable energy in the Philippines is often more cost-effective than extending the electric grid,” Galen said.”The Philippines government is looking at renewable energy to provide the electric service critical to economic growth and to help alleviate poverty in areas of the country now without electricity.”

While Philippino environmentalists welcomed the possibility of an expansion in the renewables sector, they are alarmed by the possibility of more hydro-electric power in the country. “The current trend is towards building more coal fired power stations, so of course we welcome more renewable energy sources,” a spokesperson for Philippines NGO, Balik Kalikasan, told edie. “But we have had some problems with very large dams which have affected the ancestral lands of indigenous people and led to largescale tree felling. However, we would be prepared to accept small-scale hydro plans, for instance to supply power to small communities.”

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