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4 Lessons in Renewable Energy Planning: The Philippine Experience

Rabayah Akhter, an intern with WRI's Electricity Governance Initiative, also contributed to this post.

When it comes to renewable energy, the Philippines is one of the world’s more ambitious countries. The country set out to triple its share of renewable energy by 2030 based on 2010 levels. The Philippines has one of Asia’s highest electricity rates, in part due to high costs of importing fossil fuels. Enhancing the country’s energy security and keeping power costs down have been the main drivers for setting renewable energy goals.

While the Philippines has demonstrated commitment to renewable energy, the process of achieving its goals has proven to be challenging. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in collaboration with WRI released a new report today, Meeting Renewable Energy Targets: Global Lessons From The Road To Implementation. The report documents the challenges and solutions to scaling up renewable energy in the Philippines and six other countries - China, India, Germany, Morocco, South Africa and Spain.

Successes and Delays

The Philippines’ experience--the strides and the delays--exemplifies the importance of good governance, including transparency, accountability, and participation. Without it, policies are unlikely to receive public acceptance or support. While it’s important to choose which policies to initiate in the energy sector, equally as important is fortifying the regulatory and institutional structures that back them. For example, the Philippine government decided to use a feed-in tariff policy, where it awards long-term contracts to renewable energy producers at fixed, guaranteed rates. This policy is designed to accelerate investment in the sector. Unfortunately, implementation was delayed for four years, in part because of opposition from stakeholder groups like renewable energy project developers and consumer associations. Public concerns included questions on how the new policy would affect already high electricity prices. Delays in policy decisions and implementation stalled more than 6,000 megawatts’ worth of renewable energy projects.

After reducing the initially proposed feed-in tariff rate, the policy has now been approved, and policy makers have made sure to incorporate a vital attribute into the mechanism: flexibility. Good renewable energy policy requires mechanisms that are flexible to market changes. The Philippine Energy Regulatory Commission is in charge of consistently reviewing and re-adjusting the feed-in tariff system using effective, cost-controlling methods. Allowing for this kind of review ensures that the renewable energy policy can adapt, no matter the economic situation affecting the country.

4 Elements of Good Renewable Energy Planning

Because every country faces different environmental, social, political, and economic challenges, there can be no one-size-fits-all renewable energy policy. However, learning about one country’s challenges and successes with renewable energy can be immensely helpful in crafting policies for another. With at least 138 countries having set renewable energy targets, it’s important to know what works and what doesn’t. In comparing the successes and failures in seven countries, the WWF report concludes that there are a set of attributes that policy makers should pay particular attention to when planning renewable energy policies. Using examples from seven countries, the report provides four recommendations for policy makers to create better, more sustainable electricity plans:

  1. Clearly defined policy objectives that have wide public support and flexible yet stable promotion mechanisms. Germany’s RE policy framework, for example, received support from a variety of stakeholders, including policy makers from various political parties, individuals and communities, and market players such as utilities. Involving this broad group was important for achieving policy buy-in. Policy makers were able to create a feed-in tariff system that was flexible and responsive to market changes, while supporting the mechanism with a stable regulatory framework.

  2. Decision-making that reflects transparency, accountability, coordination, cooperation, and multi-stakeholder participation. Despite initial skepticism, India’s competitive bidding system proved to be successful in attracting quality bidders for solar energy projects. This is because the country’s Solar Mission was deliberately transparent in its bidder-screening process.

  3. Enabling industry structures with adequate infrastructure and technology. Planning for short, medium, and long term infrastructure requirements is critical to the success of a sustainable renewable energy policy and will require enabling industry structures. China’s success in renewable energy development is a result of the government making use of its existing, sizable manufacturing sector to establish a stable foundation for infrastructure requirements. The country adapted those industries to meet the needs of renewable energy over the longer term.

  4. A clear understanding of and plan for institutional and human capacity needed (skills, training, education, and capacity-building) to manage renewable energy systems. Morocco’s National Energy Strategy, for example, puts a demonstrable emphasis on increasing human know-how. In urban areas, university degrees and programs are dedicated to renewable energy. In rural areas, various initiatives provide technical assistance and information access to local-level actors.

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