January 12, 2016

Foreign Affairs | Exploring Renewable Energy Prospects for the Philippines in Vermont

Consul General Mario De Leon Jr. Meets with 
Officials of Leading Innovators -
Vermont Energy Investment Corporation & Northern Reliability Inc. 


Waitsfield, Vermont – During an outreach to explore renewable energy opportunities in Vermont, Consul General Mario L. De Leon, Jr. met with Mr. Scott Johnstone, Executive Director, accompanied by Karen Glitman, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, and Cristina Donovan, Principal Consultant and Business Development Leader, of Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (VEIC) and then with Mr. Jay Bellows, Chief Executive Officer, and Mr. Charles Van Winkle, Chief Operating Officer, of Northern Reliability Inc. Both Vermont-based companies are innovators and employ cutting-edge technology in renewable energy (RE).

Since 1986, VEIC has been a respected leader in the design and implementation of efficient energy services in the US. It operates utilities and provides consulting services specializing in the design and delivery of renewable energy services. It has the distinction of being the first US energy efficient utility with clients in New Jersey, Canada, UK, Ireland, Canada, the Carribean, China, Nepal, Tibet, Tanzania and South Africa. (For more information, please check www.veic.org)

Cristina Donovan, CG Mario De Leon, Jr., Scott Johnstone 
and Karen Glitman of VEIC. (Photo from newyorkpcg.org) 
Consul General De Leon conveyed that the PH is interested in renewable energy, particularly in geothermal, solar and wind energy, due to a strong demand for energy sources in the PH, particularly in Mindanao and Visayas. The PH is trying to vary the mix of energy sources and is aiming to lessen its dependence on oil and coal-based energy sources.

Ms. Glitman said that Vermont has a Renewable Energy Association and is number one in the US in per capita use of RE, numbering about 16,000 homeowners who are connected to clean energy and RE sources.

Consul General De Leon replied that the PH has one major power generator operated by the government (NAPOCOR) and a big power company (MERALCO) working with rural-based electric distributors. He cited the challenges posed by high electric costs in the PH – one of the highest in Southeast Asia – which is a dampener for both investment and in reviving manufacturing in the country. However, he cited PH geothermal use as the 2nd largest in the world next to California.

Mr. Johnstone underscored that a shift to a RE program is achievable in a short span of time by sending a strong policy signal backed by clear, national regulations, setting concrete markers that the industry must adhere to, instituting strong policies and a compliance date supported by local legislation, creating incentives for customers, and attracting private investment.

Ms. Donovan added that VEIC is trying to implement the use of “Drive Electric” or e-vehicles in Vermont as a way to expand into a comprehensive RE-based economy for Vermonters. VEIC will connect solar and RE sources in homes and businesses where the objective is to force development and energy efficiency goals.

Later that day, Consul General met with Mr. Bellows and Mr. Van Winkle of Northern Reliability (NR).


Charlie Van Winkle, Jay Bellows and CG Mario De Leon.
(Photo from newyorkpcg.org)
The company is 30 years old and is a pioneer and innovator in power grids, RE installations, and energy storage used in disaster preparedness, back-up power for net metered RE systems, and providing solutions for grid upgrades and peak energy management needs, while supporting RE sources attached to a grid.

Mr. Bellows said the shift to RE began in 1998 when deregulation took place. There came a shift from a government-regulated industry to an open market.

Mr. Van Winkle sees a significant potential for RE in the PH because of the amount of sunlight in the country and the many applications for battery storage technology in the country, i.e. for disaster preparedness and use in remote islands, and to power wifi and communication. He pointed out that utility companies don’t need to upgrade equipment or decrease energy production in order to expand capacity. Instead, it can store excess energy generated from existing RE and mixed energy sources for use during peak hours.

According to Mr. Van Winkle, RE storage is a viable business model as existing developers/ providers as well as communities can own the storage equipment. As the existing technology allows control from a central location, even in harsh conditions, and has become cheaper in recent years, RE storage finds many applications for small scale communities citing Northern’s projects in Maine and Canada.