New direction needed for Philippines’ renewable energy sector to be at pace with urgency of the climate emergency

The Responsible Energy Initiative Philippines consortium argues that not attending to emerging risks in utility-scale renewable energy value chains may likely slow down the just energy transition in the Philippines.

The Responsible Energy Initiative Philippines (‘REI Philippines’) officially launched last week on the inaugural International Day of Clean Energy. Launching with an industry-wide case for action, REI Philippines calls for stronger collaboration across the renewable energy (RE) sector to integrate policies, practices, norms and behaviors that will allow the sector to anticipate and respond responsibly to its ecological and social impacts.

While the benefits of RE are widely acknowledged from decarbonization and expanding energy access to job creation, REI Philippines notes that emerging ecological and social impacts of the energy transition, particularly from the production and deployment of utility-scale RE, are inadequately addressed. These impacts include displacement of indigenous communities, threats to biodiversity and environmental pollution from end-of-life disposal, and could impede the country’s energy transition.

With the Philippines’ energy transition showing promise with a forward-looking policy direction, a mature development sector, and a dynamic civil society, among other promising characteristics, this provides an opportunity for the RE sector to pioneer a shift towards business models that reduce harm, enable social justice and economic resilience, and regenerate ecosystems.

REI Philippines, a multi-year program designed as a collaborative platform, is currently led by a consortium of six leading international and Philippine-based think tanks and civil society organizations: the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Philippines, the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC), Oxfam Pilipinas, Forum for the Future, the Center for Empowerment, Innovation and Training on Renewable Energy (CentRE) and the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

Close to 100 representatives from industry, finance, civil society and policymakers attended the launch of REI Philippines today at the Astoria Plaza Hotel in Pasig City. Hon. Senator Risa Hontiveros delivered the keynote address.

    The launch also featured a panel session entitled "The opportunity for a socially, ecologically safe and just energy transition in the Philippines" was moderated by Ms. Sumi Dhanarajan from Forum for the Future. The panel featured experts across the renewable energy value chain, including Mr. Erel Narida, President of One Renewable Energy Enterprise and REAP, Ms. Ann Margret Francisco, Country Manager of GWEC, Ms. Marla Garin-Alvarez, Vice President & Head of Sustainability at BDO Unibank Inc., and Ms. Erika Geronimo, Executive Director of Oxfam Pilipinas.

    Mr. Erel Narida from REAP stressed the need for making renewable energy technologies accessible and beneficial for all, especially underserved communities, while highlighting the risks of societal divides from large-scale projects. He emphasized that we "need to walk the ground" and posed the question — how might we disseminate our research so that it truly educates and helps the very people we are trying to protect? Ms. Marla Garin-Alvarez from BDO Unibank Inc. emphasized the crucial role of capital as a catalyst in the energy transition, and the bank's commitment towards implementing Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) screening, ensuring financed renewable energy projects align with principles of ecological protection and social responsibility.

    A vital overarching theme of the panel discussion: the indispensability of inclusivity in the renewable energy transition. This notion resonated with all panelists, reflected in their unified stance – from the call for a swift yet inclusive shift to a collective commitment to a comprehensive, all-encompassing approach, ensuring that the energy transition is equitable and leaves no one behind. Their dialogue underscored the complex and layered dimensions of advancing sustainable energy development.

    As part of the launch, the Renewable Energy to Responsible Energy: A Call to Action report was also published today. The report outlines the energy transition in the Philippines, providing an overview of existing or upcoming ecological and social impacts arising from utility-scale RE production and deployment (specifically solar, floating solar, onshore and offshore wind, energy storage systems and small and mini hydro), and the existing measures and opportunities to govern, manage and mitigate these impacts.

    Erika Geronimo, Oxfam Pilipinas Executive Director, noted the Philippine commitment to the Nationally Determined Contribution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 75% in 2030 aligning with the 1.5C Paris Agreement target.

    Sumi Dhanarajan, Managing Director (Southeast Asia), Forum for the Future, said:


    We are looking for RE developers, manufacturers, financiers, procurers, policymakers, CSOs and philanthropy who shares our ambition of an ecologically safe, socially just and future fit energy system. REI Philippines will be embarking on a collaborative process to codevelop an industry-wide shared vision, and actions that can bring us there. 

    Reach out to Pauline Darroca via email through  Pauline.Darroca(at)fes.de  to find out more about the initiative and how you can collaboratie with or join REI Philippines.


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