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Science and Environment

‘Asean must invest in green infrastructure’

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star

BANGKOK – Countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, must scale up investments on green infrastructure and create long-term policies if they want to succeed in their shift to cleaner energy in the future, according to climate and energy policy experts.

“The winners are the ones who embrace the change and see the opportunities, and the ones who resist the change are the ones in the losing end,” said Isabelle de Lovinfosse, a low carbon energy policy expert based in Singapore. 

Lovinfosse said the energy sector contributes about two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions globally. 

She said climate change, which is driven by the rise of greenhouse emissions, is a “massive problem” and “inevitable.” 

“For me, the energy sector is definitely the space for transformation… it is also where you have substantial potential to do it (reduce emission),” the expert said.

Lovinfosse said countries must source up to 86 percent of electricity from renewable sources from the current 24 percent by 2050 to meet the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s target of limiting global warming to “well below” two degrees Celsius by 2100.

“It would not just require renewable sources but also enabling green infrastructures, including storage and charging for transports like EVs (electronic vehicles). So it requires also a change in infrastructure in addition to the change of producing energy,” she said. 

In the Philippines, renewable energy resources – which include geothermal, hydropower, biomass, solar and wind – accounted for 25 percent of its power generation mix in 2017. 

Industry players, however, said several provisions of the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 have not yet been fully implemented and has slowed the pace of renewable energy developments in the Philippines. 

Kavita Sinha, regional director for the South and East Asia International Forum for Energy of the European Climate Foundation, said the Philippine government must provide long-term policies that would entice more investors to fund renewable energy projects in the country.

“The political story of the Philippines is that the old policies they keep to an end but it wasn’t replaced by another policy, so there’s a policy gap. And in finance, especially when you’re investing in technology or projects that have a life span of 30 to 40 years, you want visibility of policy for that same period. You know having policies for five years doesn’t help in building their confidence in making an investment so that’s the gap,” Sinha said. 

The other barrier in promoting renewable energy in the Philippines, she said, is the hidden subsidy provided by the government to fossil fuel industry.

“The second big gap is the hidden subsidies on the fossil fuel industry because all fuel costs and everything is a pass-through, which means in the profits of private there are the risks of public consumers paying for the risks of the fossil fuel industry,” Sinha said. 

“Even though the frontline stories is that it (Philippines) is technology-neutral, it is actually not,” she added.

GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

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