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What Australia can learn from the Philippines on renewables

Filipinos have embraced the renewable technology and don’t think of wind farms as eyesores
Filipinos have embraced the renewable technology and don’t think of wind farms as eyesores

For many Australians, wind farms are unsightly. But in the Philippines, according to former Minister for Energy of the Philippines and Chairman of Alterenergy Vince Perez, there are now visitor centres at some wind farms to cope with the influx of interested citizens. 

Filipinos embrace the technology and don’t think of wind farms as eyesores. They look at them as the modern technology they’ve been waiting for to transition away from the fossil fuel industry,” Mr Perez told The Fifth Estate when in Melbourne for AECOM’s Imagine2060 event on Wednesday.

For Mr Perez, a supportive public is playing a key role in the nation’s shift away from coal and towards renewable energy sources. 

He claims that the Philippines is now the biggest producer of wind in Southeast Asia.

As well as wind, Mr Perez said the Philippines is touted as the “Saudi Arabia of geothermal” thanks to its position in the pacific Ring of Fire. A key benefit of geothermal energy is that it does not depend on seasons or weather conditions.

He also says geothermal has unrealised potential in Australia.  

“Australia has geothermal potential. You just need dry geothermal technology. In the Philippines we have steam, but in Australia you need to pump water from underground to generate steam. This could power towns or micro grids.”

Mr Perez believes Australia is still struggling to find the skills and expertise to implement this type of geothermal technology on a large scale, but that these skills do exist in pockets.

The Philippines also relies on hydropower, solar and biomass resources to generate renewable energy. 

Panel L-R: Abbie McQueen, AECOM; Vince Perez, Alterenergy; Warner Priest, Siemens; Tony Fullelove, Monash Uni; Helen Millicer, Alternative Technology Association.

The road to renewables in the Philippines

As energy minister, Mr Perez was heavily involved in privatising the energy sector in his country in 2001, and later, in driving the renewables agenda at the policy level.

He said that in his time in office, the government was attracted to feed-in-tariffs as a device to drive the transition to renewables.

However, the Spanish feed-in-tariff experience – where the country “went crazy building solar” and left the government struggling to pay for subsidies – prompted officials to set up a scheme where renewables are subsidised by every consumer.

The support for renewables remains strong in the Philippines. The use of renewable energy is now enshrined in legislation, and renewables are seen as a favourable solution to meet the nation’s increasing energy demands.

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