Senate approves RE bill


By Dino Balabo and Katherine Adraneda
Thursday, October 2, 2008

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Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri said yesterday the Senate passed Tuesday night the Renewable Energy bill and the President may sign it into law by November.

Speaking at the opening of the cooperative month celebration in Malolos, Bulacan, Zubiri said the Senate and the House of Representatives will soon hold a bicameral session to finalize the proposed bill before President Arroyo signs it.

“Iyan ang Christmas gift namin sa ating mga kababayan. (That’s our Christms gift to our fellow citizens),” Zubiri said.

At present, he said there are at least 20 business groups which expressed interest to invest in the renewable energy sector, including the use of solar, biomass, hydro, and power.

He also predicted that power rates would drop by 12 percent once renewable energy is used.

Environmental organizations lauded the Senate for finally approving the RE bill after “a whopping 19 years in limbo.”

Voting 18-0, senators Tuesday night approved simultaneously on second and third reading the Palace-certified RE bill, which aims to accelerate the development and use of the nation’s vast renewable energy resources through fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for investors.

The measure also assures investors in wind, solar, ocean, run-of-river hydropower, and biomass premium rates in electricity generated from clean sources through feed-in tariffs. Other incentives include duty-free importation of equipment, tax credit on domestic capital equipment and services, special realty tax rates, income tax holidays, net operating loss carry-over, accelerated depreciation and exemption from the universal charge and wheeling charges.

The bill, principally sponsored by Sen. Edgardo Angara, also seeks to institutionalize a Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring the country’s electric utilities to obtain a certain portion of their electricity from clean, homegrown renewable energy sources.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), a conservation group, said the Senate’s passage of the bill is a milestone in the country’s energy sector’s reforms and overall sustainability.

It described the action of the Senate as “a grand display of solidarity against climate change.”

“In passing this landmark legislation, the Senate has just paved the way for the country’s drive toward energy independence and low-carbon growth,” said Raf Senga, manager of WWF’s Asia Pacific Energy Policy.

Based on a joint study by the WWF and the University of the Philippines, the country can save over $2.9 billion from “avoided importation” of fossil fuel by merely increasing renewable energy share in power generation mix from 0.16 percent to 41 percent.

Today, 26 percent of the country’s power comes from burning imported coal, while 23 percent comes from burning oil, the WWF said.

Only last year, the WWF pointed out, the country imported 101.4 million barrels of oil alone, costing the government $7.5 billion.

The Renewable Energy Coalition said renewable energy sources can reduce the Philippines’ oil imports by half, and the savings can be used for social and infrastructure programs.

REC spokesperson Catherine Maceda said the amount of money that can be saved from reduced oil imports could send 17 million children to school, build 250,000 classrooms, establish 135,000 health centers, feed three million families, and build 38,000 kms of farm-to-market roads.

With the RE Bill only a step closer becoming a law of the land, another environment organization, Greenpeace, however, stressed that the next challenge for the lawmakers is to implement strict energy efficiency policies and begin the process of phasing out harmful coal-fired power plants.

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