The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Energy (DOE)  are eyeing on increasing the utilization of cost-efficient renewable energy (RE) systems and technologies in the country’s agriculture and fisheries sector.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 mandates the DA to coordinate with DOE for the identification and installation of appropriate types of energy sources particularly in the use of non-conventional energy sources for the locality in order to enhance agriculture and fisheries development in the area. “Along that line, DA and DOE entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) and a Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) where a major item is for a renewable energy program to be formulated and implemented,” said Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Engineering (DA-BAFE) Dir. Ariodear Rico.

The Renewable Energy Program for the Agri-Fishery Sector (REPAFS) is an eight-year program that will be implemented from 2022 to 2030. REPAFS acts as the blueprint in the effective and efficient integration of RE in agriculture and fisheries sectors, and serves as a component of the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP). Formulation of REPAFS is spearheaded by DA, through BAFE. 

“The goal of REPAFS is to promote the use of RE in the agriculture and fishery sector for enhanced productivity, sustainability, and environmental protection,” Dir. Rico explained. 

Chaired by DA-BAFE and co-chaired by DOE’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau (REMB), the Joint Technical Working Group (JTWG) is tasked to provide technical support in the formulation of the REPAFS.

The strategic directions of REPAFS were presented during the 1st JTWG meeting held online on December 1, 2021. The online meeting was attended by designated representatives  of various operating units of DA and DOE including REMB, DOE-Visayas Field Office (VFO), DOE-Mindanao Field Office (MFO), Energy Policy and Planning Bureau (EPPB), National Renewable Energy Board (NREB), DA-Project Development Service (PDS), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Standards (BAFS), Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), and DA-BAFE.

The REPAFS six strategic directions are infrastructure and facilities support services, research and development, human resource development, standards development and enforcement, financing and credit support, and policy and incentives support.

According to the Philippine Energy Situationer, 2018/2019, the agriculture sector accounts for 0.5 MTOE (Million tons of oil equivalent) or 1.4% of the total final energy consumption in the country.  Out of the 471.7 kTOE (thousand tons of oil equivalent), 50.9% comes from electricity and 48.0% from oil products (46.1% diesel, 1.9% gasoline, 0.1% kerosene, and 0.1% fuel oil). 

An increase in agriculture energy demand from mechanization, irrigation, drying/heating/cooling, storage and processing facilities (warehouses, cold storage, milling and processing facilities), livestock-related facilities (piggery, milking parlors, slaughterhouses), and fishery and aquaculture related facilities (fishport, smokehouse) is observed.  The energy supply can be augmented by renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydro, and biomass. 

Since 1988 up to the present, renewable energy (RE) projects have been implemented by various DA bureaus and attached agencies.  These RE projects include Solar-Powered Irrigation Systems (SPIS) (implemented by BSWM, DA-RFOs, NTA, DAR, and NIA), Solar-PV Grid-tie and Off-grid Systems (PFDA and BPI), Solar PV for Street Lighting (PFDA), Solar PV for Curing (NTA), Solar PV for Water Pumping and Aeration of the Aquaponics – Aquaculture Production System (BFAR), Wind-Powered Irrigation System (BSWM and DA-RFOs), Ram Pump Irrigation System  (BSWM and DA-RFOs), Biomass Furnace and Gasifier (PHilMech and DA-RFOs), and Small-Scale Biogas Plant (BAI, PCC, DA and DOST). An inventory of completed and on-going RE projects in the Philippine agri-fishery sector shows that 72% is on biomass, 20% solar, 4% wind, and 3% hydro. 

The adoption of renewable energy technologies in agricultural activities offers promising prospects in addressing food and energy security together with the objective of environmental sustainability.  However, despite the potentials offered by renewable energy, the rate of adoption is relatively slow due to many challenges. These challenges are high cost of investment, limited support to RE technologies, lack of market-driven activities to showcase latest RE technologies, lack of skilled and competent technical experts, low number of existing standards for RE technologies, limited financing and credit support, and lack of incentives for RE end-users among others.  

REPAFS short-term projects from 2022 to 2026 will include pilot demonstration sites; enhancement of existing technologies; introduction of technology business incubators (TBIs) to local manufacturers of RE machinery and equipment; promotion of RE technologies for agri-fisheries production and postharvest operations; integration of design of different RE systems as additional or alternative power source of agricultural and fisheries facilities (including comparative cost studies for different RE set-up); special training for the preparation of RE Project Proposal; promotion to avail fiscal and non-fiscal incentives under RA 9513 to incentivize RE developers, manufacturers, fabricators, end-users of RE systems, and producers of energy feedstock; and inventory and assessment of different implemented RE systems and technologies in agri-fishery sector.

Medium-term projects from 2026 to 2030 will include provision of agricultural and fishery machinery and facilities driven by RE technologies; conversion of existing and installed projects of DA as energy/power source; support to local developers, manufacturers, end-users of RE technologies, and producers of RE feedstock; local RE technology development; rolling-out of the existing training regulations (TRs) on solar-powered irrigation system (SPIS) operation and maintenance (NC II) and biogas systems installation (NC III); development of additional TRs on RE for the agri-fisheries sector with an emphasis on biomass, solar, wind, and hydro; training of farmers, farm workers, and machinery operators on the use, operation, and maintenance of RE-powered machines, equipment, facilities, and other livelihood projects; integration/mainstreaming of RE application in agri-fisheries sector in the K-12 program of DepEd; enhancement of the integration of RE program into the curriculum of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in agricultural and biosystems engineering, agriculture, fisheries, and other related courses; seminar workshop on the accreditation of manufacturers of RE machineries and equipment; AMTEC testing and evaluation of RE-powered agricultural and fisheries machinery; inventory and registration of local manufacturers, fabricators, and suppliers of RE systems and technologies; issuance of Permit-to-Operate (PTO) to local manufacturers, fabricators, and suppliers of RE –powered agricultural and fisheries machinery and equipment; issuance of certificate of conformity (CC) to RE-powered agricultural and fisheries machinery that are compliant to the PNS/PABES; compliance monitoring of local manufacturers, fabricators, and suppliers of RE technologies to PNS/BAFS/PABES (192:2016) on the guidelines on after-sales service; compliance monitoring of local manufacturers, fabricators, and suppliers of RE technologies on ABE manpower (PRC MC No. 2015-04) and certified operators and technicians (DOLE-DA TESDA JMC No.02, Series of 2021); registration of ownership of newly-bought RE-powered agricultural and fisheries machinery; development of different financing schemes and partnership to support developers, manufacturers, fabricators, end-users of RE systems, and producers of energy feedstock; and development of new policies and incentives schemes. 

The total budgetary requirement for the REFAPS 2022-2030 is Php 7,976,700,000.00.  The eight-year DA-DOE joint program will be implemented by DA agencies (BAFE, BFAR, PHilMech, PhilRice, PCA, SRA, BAI, BSWM, ATI, BAR, BAFS, PhilFIDA, NDA, DA-PDS, and DA-RFO-RAED III) and DOE agencies (REMB, EPPD, IPO, NREB, DOE-LFO, DOE-VFO, and DOE-MFO). ###Marshall Louie Asis (Published on December 2, 2021)