Think-tank says energy transition still a low priority for DOE, as budget briefings show

The sustainability think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) expressed concern that the budget briefings held by the House of Representatives show that the Department of Energy (DOE) still places a low priority on the country’s transition to renewable energy, despite the incumbent administration’s marching order of having renewable energy as the “way forward” in the 2023 State of the Nation Address.

The think-tank considered DOE’s reply to questions raised by members of Congress after the department’s budget presentation about the alignment of its renewable energy program to the 1.5ºC goal of the Paris Agreement to be dismissive.

“Secretary Raphael Lotilla simply said that the 50% renewables by 2040 target is already the Philippines’ contribution to global climate ambitions – a target that is low and late based on the latest available climate science, which says that we should strive for as high as 85% by 2030 if we are to be aligned to the 1.5C goal. When pressed, he passed the buck to developed countries, who must bear the burden of transition. While developed countries have a larger responsibility, this is not an excuse for DOE to not take the highest possible ambition for our transition, especially because we are one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. Raising our renewable ambition will also ensure Filipinos’ access to reliable, dependable, and affordable energy,” said Avril de Torres, Deputy Executive Director of CEED.

On that note, de Torres said it was concerning that the DOE also completely excluded the possibility of the government funding the development of storage for renewable energy storage.

“We wonder at Secretary Lotilla’s statement that the power sector is completely in the hands of the private sector. The DOE has both the capacity and mandate to take the lead in the development of our energy sector and devote government resources to efforts that will benefit the consuming public. The level of control helmed by the private sector of the country’s energy supply is all the more reason for the DOE to assert control and issue policies and programs to compel a hastened shift to renewables,” said de Torres.

The think-tank also considered it worrying that the DOE is conceding to the same message line as fossil fuel companies that renewable energy is variable and cannot give baseload power.

“The vast potential of the Philippines for renewables means we have a mix of resources able to supply power requirements in a flexible manner. Storage technologies are also improving rapidly. We would find more assurance in the DOE’s sense of urgency for an energy transition if the Department reflects in the budget they present to Congress that it intends to invest financial resources and expertise in giving people the reliable, sustainable, and affordable electricity they deserve,” said de Torres.