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‘Energy future must build on shifts in energy landscape’

ENERGY industry stakeholders are pushing for energy independence to improve the country’s growing need for a stable and efficient energy supply.

In a recent Energy Smart Forum, which focused on the theme “Improving Efficiency in the Energy Generation and Distribution Sectors,” Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Senate Energy Committee chairman, pointed to the shifting landscape in terms of energy.

He observed that at the onset of the pandemic, oil prices crashed to negative levels. “Big oil” around the world, he said, is transitioning to other forms of energy, specifically renewable energy (RE).  “This is a signal that the long-term choice for energy will not be oil and gas but technologies in the renewable space,” Gatchalian said. “This is a signal that big oil is moving to big RE.”

Government, he said, is implementing and crafting essential laws that will help drive the transition from fossil fuels to RE faster. Among these are Republic Act (RA) No. 9153 the Renewable Energy Act of 2008; RA 11285, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act; and Senate Bill (SB) No. 1382, the Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act.

“The potential for RE is vast,” with a 31,000-megawatts (MW) capacity “that can power the country for next 15 years,” he added.

Aboitiz Power Corporation President Emmanuel Rubio named two important things in harnessing RE in order to bring about economic growth. The first is the creation of sound policies that will bring about investment, improve the supply chain, and upgrade the existing infrastructure. “Policy is the framework of energy industry. It is the primary governing law that dictates how everything works and how things flow from our sources of renewable energy,” he said.

The second mode is anchoring the march towards progress on a digital ecosystem. Aboitiz Power currently has a capacity of 4,300 MW, allowing them to address the 600  MW to 700 MW base demand in new capacity requirements.

“We have made steps towards digitization, and invested in technology that has allowed us to maintain facilities remotely. Digital tools keep teams engaged and investments have allowed businesses to move smoothly,” said Rubio.

Meanwhile, ABB Inc. Technical Design and Promotion Manager Jerico Medel likewise discussed digitalization as the key to efficient energy distribution, with the “smart grid” as a solution to overcoming logistical challenges, while providing improved operational efficiency, lowering operating costs,  increasing system reliability, while improving the quality of service to customers.

Philippine Energy Efficiency Alliance (PE2) President Alexander Ablaza said Covid-19 “will not be the last economic slump” and asserted that “we have to be more flexible” to address future crises.  He added that energy efficiency is estimated to be “45 percent more labor-intensive than BBB [Build, Build, Build] infrastructure projects.”

The forum was organized by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) in partnership with PE2. It was co-presented by ABB and the Philippine Energy Independence Council (PEIC).

PEIC Director Amor Maclang highlighted the importance of collaboration among the players in the sector, saying it is “indispensable to the creation of a Philippines that is energy-independent and energy-secure.”

This, she said, “is one of the main goals of the partnership that has been forged between the PEIC and the ECCP,” adding, “Our unified vision is to tap into and harness the abundant natural resources that our country has, to provide energy in its remotest areas, as well as to ensure that our economy does not just reopen, but to continue running in a stronger and more robust fashion.”

PEIC and ECCP  will hold their next event on December 10 and January 21 to create concrete plans based on the discussions of this forum to develop lasting benefits that will benefit the country over the long-term.

Some of the topics to be discussed include: the modern enterprise and how the energy sector can thrive in the new normal; digital customer service solutions for power distribution; exploration prospects in the West Philippine Sea and their challenges, opportunities, and the necessary optimal response;  the adaptation of energy self- sufficient infrastructure to offset operating costs and carbon footprint; and  liquefied natural gas’s role in the next decade’s energy transition.

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