Stakeholders upbeat on distributed energy

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ENERGY industry stakeholders are optimistic towards the further development of distributed energy resources (DER) in the Philippines, which primarily needs the government’s efforts to create enabling policies.

During the 2021 Renewable Energy Congress on Friday, speakers shared the various reasons for the country to pursue and utilize DERs in light of the wide range of challenges faced by the energy sector, particularly power outages.

The online forum, with the theme “REfocus in 2022 and Beyond: Meeting RE targets for Sustainable Recovery and Development,” was organized by the Center for Empowerment, Innovation and Training on Renewable Energy (CentRE).

DER a small-scale unit of power generation that operates locally and is connected to a larger power grid at the distribution level. DERs are commonly used to manage a number of smaller power generation and storage methods in residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

In the commercial and industrial sectors, distributed generation can include resources such as combined heat and power systems, solar photovoltaic panels, wind, hydropower, biomass combustion or cofiring, municipal solid waste incineration, and fuel cells fired by natural gas or biomass.

Speaking at the event, lawyer Jose Layug, president of Developers Renewable Energy for AdvanceMent Inc. (DREAM), highlighted the current renewable energy resources in the Philippines, citing data from the United States Agency for International Development and Climate Change and Clean Energy Project Study.

To date, the study reported the country has a potential of 4,449.54 megawatts (MW) of biomass, 1,200 MW of geothermal resource, 10,500 MW of hydropower, 170,000 MW of ocean energy, 76,600 MW of wind resources.

Currently, the Department of Energy (DoE) is looking at revising the country’s renewable energy (RE) target from the current 30 percent to 50 percent by 2040.

“We need more power. But over time, for the last ten years, we have seen a sad state of affairs in terms of renewable energy installation,” Layug lamented.

He is also dismayed that for the last ten years, the RE energy installations were way below targets.

“Because we have relied more on coal… our percentage of self-sufficiency, meaning less reliance on imported fossil fuel went down from about 65 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2019… Now we import more, we rely more on coal and fossil fuel and we have less renewables,” Layug explained.

According to the DoE, the Philippines will need 43,765 MW of additional capacity by 2040.

Also at the event, Raghu Belur, co-founder and chief products officer of Enphase Energy US, stressed that one of the best solutions to address power outages in the Philippines is capitalizing on the benefits of DERs.

“The greatness of being fully distributed is that the endpoints are extremely intelligent and allow them (referring to industries and households) to make autonomous decisions. And you do this for cost performance and reliability reasons,” he said.

Belur, however, noted that there will definitely be some regulatory challenges. “But that’s coming and it’s inevitable. And we have a problem now… we have outages and it’s crazy.”

“And so, we have to rethink an infratructure that’s been there for 125 years… our transmission and distribution change hasn’t changed. It needs to be rethought of. The solution is really obvious. It’s got to be distributed. You got to build DERs,” Belur emphasized.

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