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Statement on DOE Secretary Lotilla’s high-cost, low-ambition energy transition pronouncements

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In a BusinessWorld Insights forum last week, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Raphael Lotilla said that the transition to renewable energy will not happen “overnight.” While this is a statement that surely no one will contest, it cannot be used to dismiss demands from communities and civic movements for greater ambition for the energy transition. It is extremely disappointing to hear pointless quips from the government agency that should be driving the country’s energy transition, in accordance with President Marcos Jr. directive that “renewable energy is the way forward.”

We remind Sec. Lotilla that the concurrent climate and energy crises we are experiencing demand an urgent and just transition to renewable energy. The administration’s plan to have a 35% share of RE in the power mix by 2030, as stated by the President in his recent SONA, simply lacks the high ambition required to address these crises.

The DOE itself, in partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), published a 2018 study called GREENING THE GRID: Solar and Wind Grid Integration Study for the Luzon-Visayas System of the Philippines, which asserts that a 50 percent RE-powered system by 2030 is possible. This was way before various enabling policies like the Green Energy Auction Program (GEAP) and distributed energy resources (DER) came into the picture. A Climate Analytics report published in 2022 also notes that the Philippines needs to raise its ambition to a renewable energy share of at least 80% by 2030 if it wants to align with the 1.5 degree C climate imperative.

The DOE, through the GEAP, already oversaw the addition of winning bids totaling almost 5.5 GW of renewable energy projects slated to go online this year until 2026. But whatever optimism this progress inspires will be muted against the backdrop of the continued operation and even expansion of the fossil fuel industry in the country, including massive expansion plans for fossil gas and the non-implementation of a stringent coal moratorium, with no coal phase-out plans and policies.

Gas, the fossil fuel of choice for the Marcos Jr. administration, still faces supply shortages and record-high market prices caused by geopolitical and economic issues. Sec. Lotilla himself said earlier this year that fossil gas would result in expensive household electricity prices. Nuclear, another false energy solution, requires too much money, time, and resources to be deployed. Backing these technologies will only subject consumers to expensive energy while also worsening environmental concerns. Instead, the DOE and the administration should hasten the advance of RE to a minimum of 50% by the end of the decade.

Raise the ambition, onward to a 100 percent renewable energy!

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