Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Renewable energy law may be revised

By Coco Alcuaz, ANC
Posted at 09/06/2011 11:00 AM | Updated as of 09/06/2011 4:21 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Energy Secretary Rene Almendras said it is possible that President Aquino will move to revise the Renewable Energy Act, which is drawing attention now that regulators are posed to raise rates to support it.

The Energy Regulatory Commission is currently holding hearings to decide how much all power users will have to pay to subsidize the development of wind, solar, hyro and biomass. Proponents say the subsidy is needed if the Philippines wants to be less dependent on oil whose prices are bound to rise.

Critics say many renewable sources are expensive but becoming cheaper fast so it is better to wait.
On ANC's  "A Sustainable Future: A Forum on Renewable Energy" on Monday, Almendras said the President is looking for a balance between present prices and future energy independence.

"The President does care about the environment, does care about the future and the president is not afraid to make difficult decisions, unpopular decisions. But he also realizes that he has a role for the present generation. That's why he keeps saying there has to be that balance," Almendras said.

The Energy Secretary also added that the President may move to revise the Renewable Energy Act if it does not work out.

"I don't think that's an impossibility. A few months ago the DOE requested the World Bank to bring in some experts and review the law. Clearly they have identified areas that could be improved," Almendras said.

The Philippines already has one of the highest industrial power rates in Asia, turning off investors from setting up their business in the country.

Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said higher electricity prices that will come with renewable energy subsidies is making things worse.

`As it is now it (high electricity prices) is a big deterrent. That's why were locked out of heavy industries, for example. Any industry now that uses a lot of power is discouraged from investing in the Philippines. We are in effect losing millions of jobs by having a very high power cost. So the trend to power cost should be going downward, not upward," Domingo said, in the same forum.

But Dennis Ibarra, president of Philippine Solar Power Alliance, said there is a need to pay now not just as a hedge against higher oil prices but also to take care of the environment.

"You have to believe the environment and what's good for the future generation has to be taken care of now. And not have more fossil fuel plants to be built. The time for solar is now," said Ibarra, whose company is proposing to build solar power facilities.

Former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, one of the authors of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, said that while the subsidy will raise rates and turn off investors in general, it will attract investment in renewable energy itself.

"The ten centavos that is going to be charged three years from now to the consumer will actually be by the billions of investments in dollars coming to the phils and we're going to lessen our dependence on fossil fuel," Zubiri said.


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