Eastern Samar local governments commit to a just energy transition

(in photo above, from left) ICLEI Low Emission Development Strategies Manager Pam Cabacungan; Municipality of Dolores Councilor Randy Pomida; Borongan City Mayor Jose Ivan Dayan Agda; and Oxfam Pilipinas Climate Change and Energy Transition Advocacy Officer Cheng Pagulayan sign a Memorandum of Agreement under the RE-Start Campaign on 28 March 2023.

The original version of this article appears in Oxfam Pilipinas’ website.

The local government units of Borongan City and Dolores Municipality in the province of Eastern Samar, Philippines in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) ceremony on 28 March 2023 have committed themselves to pursuing renewable energy (RE) and the just energy transition hand-in-hand with their stakeholders.

Borongan City Mayor Jose Ivan Dayan Agda and Dolores Municipal Councilor Randy Pomida, on behalf of Dolores Mayor Rodrigo Rivera, signed the MoU as part of the RE-Start Campaign of Oxfam Pilipinas under the technical implementation of ICLEI Southeast Asia.

Agda expressed Borongan’s optimism for the success of the RE-Start Campaign, saying “When people question what RE is and why it’s important, we will inform them that it can provide cheaper electricity that our communities can benefit from.”

Agda added that this project can help continue their existing campaigns on environmental protection, noting Borongan’s forest and river protection efforts.

“Campaigns to protect our trees, our forests, and ensure that no illegal logging takes place will carry on. Through this, the continuous stream of clean water for our hydropower energy plants is guaranteed. The LGU of Borongan will cooperate in this project because we aim to be self-sufficient when it comes to energy sources,” said Agda.

Pomida shared that the project will be beneficial especially to off-grid communities in Dolores, saying “We hope to work with Oxfam Pilipinas to ensure that we help communities in Dolores especially those who are in off-grid barangays.”

The Provincial LGU of Eastern Samar was represented by Governor Ben Evardone’s Executive Assistant Raymond Campo during the MoU signing.

Campo expressed that the provincial LGU is supportive of these efforts on RE, “Governor Evardone has been vocal in wanting to address the rising prices of electricity in Eastern Samar and how the region is abundant in terms of RE sources. We are looking forward to continued partnerships with different organizations and LGUs to implement RE projects.”

Oxfam Pilipinas Executive Director Erika Geronimo stressed that, “this partnership means increasing people’s access to sustainable energy and opportunities to scale-up RE technologies.”

Eastern Samar’s Renewable Energy Landscape

Eastern Samar currently has a 22 MW contracted capacity from various private energy suppliers versus peak loads reaching up to 19.9 MW. However, only two (2) MW of this total capacity comes from renewable energy sources, specifically geothermal. The rest come from traditional coal-fired power plants.

Eastern Samar also suffers from high power costs and is frequented by typhoons which compromises its connection to the national power grid. These factors, among others, further slows the area’s growth and development.

On a positive note the province has plenty of renewable energy potential, with hydropower, biomass, and solar sources being the three most promising clean energy sources in Eastern Samar. Specifically, the province is home to various rivers which can provide hydro energy to utility-scale, community-based, and micro-grid power systems. Harnessing sunlight is also a promising avenue as the Philippines as a whole has a solar potential power generating capacity of 4.5 to 5.5 kWh per square meter per day.

During the MoU signing, Department of Energy (DOE) Visayas Field Office Energy Resources Development and Utilization Division Chief Lourdes Arciaga reiterated the important role of local government units (LGUs) in this RE transition. Arciaga cited DILG-DOE Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2020-01 known as the LGU Energy Code as mandating LGUs to incorporate energy planning in their Local Development Plans (LDPs).

Asked about how the DOE supports LGUs in their transition towards RE, Arciaga shared that, “the DOE can provide the LGUs energy policy advisory and technical assistance services in formulating and implementing renewable energy projects in their locality. One adoptable RE mechanism for LGUs is the DOE’s Enhanced Net-metering Program which can help them save on electricity cost thru the installation of solar PV Systems. This can also encourage consumers and more people from the communities to adopt renewable energy for their electricity needs.”

Net-metering allows customers of Distribution Utilities (DUs) to install an on-site RE facility not exceeding 100 kilowatts (kW) in capacity so they can generate electricity for their own use. Excess energy produced can be sold back to the grid for rebates, providing financial incentives to the RE facility owner and helping contribute to a more stable energy supply.

A Bottom-Up Approach to the Energy Transition

Stakeholders from Borongan during a local consultation workshop discussing perceptions regarding the town’s energy landscape. Their inputs will shape future RE-Start Campaign activities.

The MoU signing was followed by a serious of consultations workshops with various stakeholders from both Borongan and Dolores, including representatives from relevant local government agencies, civil society organizations, non-profit organizations, community organizations, distribution utility company, women’s groups, youth groups, and the academe.

Stakeholders from Dolores during a local consultation workshop discussing perceptions regarding the town’s energy landscape. Their inputs will shape future RE-Start Campaign activities.

Led by ICLEI Southeast Asia, the workshops included sessions on identifying current and planned LGU-led energy policies, programs, and projects; data gathering of RE-relevant plans and information; stakeholder mapping; and focus group discussions. The results of these will shape upcoming RE-Start campaign activities.

ICLEI SEAS Low Emission Development Strategies Manager Pam Cabacungan said that the burden to lead the just energy transition does not lie with the government alone.

“In ICLEI, we call on LGUs to promote and uphold energy democratization and engage local stakeholders to address energy injustices. We also want to be part of the solution by providing our organization’s assistance to address our partner LGUs’ needs. We are grateful for the opportunity to be working with the provincial government of Eastern Samar, Borongan City, Municipality of Dolores, and Oxfam Pilipinas to realize this through the RE-StartCampaign,” Cabacungan said.

The RE-Start Campaign is part of Oxfam Pilipinas’ just energy transition (JET) programme to promote a democratized energy governance system in the Philippines and support local actors to establish enabling policy and program environment for accelerated RE transformation.

Borongan is currently an ICLEI Member City, having been previously engaged in the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network  (ACCCRN) project which demonstrated a diverse range of effective approaches, processes, and practices for assessing and addressing urban climate vulnerabilities.

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