Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Delegation From Philippines Visits Vallejo to Study Renewable Energy

Delegation From Philippines Visits Vallejo to Study Renewable Energy
By RACHEL RASKIN-ZRIHEN, Times-Herald staff writer

A high level Filipino delegation is visiting Vallejo in the interest of achieving world peace through renewable energy, delegation members said.

A first-time cooperative effort between the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Development Program, the Philippines' Department of Energy and Vallejoan Larry Asera's Asera Group, LLC, resulted in the six-day fact-finding mission, officials said.

"In the Philippines, we are promoting renewable energy in our drive to foster energy independence," said Rosario Calderon of USAID in Manila, who helped organize the trip. "Studies have shown the Philippines could generate 70,000 megawatts of wind energy per year, for instance. Our congress has sponsored bills on renewable energy and to encourage investors which will promote economic growth and promote peace."

Vallejo is on the cutting edge in renewable energy, officials said.

"We welcomed the delegation to City Hall Friday," Vallejo Mayor Tony Intinoli said. "We showed them the solar facilities we installed about two years ago at City Hall and the John F. Kennedy Library, which are operating at great efficiency and at a significant savings to the city."

Delegation chairman and Philippine House Committee on Energy head, Alipio Badelles, said the group hopes to take home a better understanding of renewable energy programs in Vallejo and surrounding areas.

"In the Philippines, electricity rates are some of the highest in the region, because 50 percent of it comes from imported fuel - oil and coal," Badelles said. "We want to lessen our dependence on imported fuels and develop our local indigenous sources of renewable energy.

"California is a pioneer in renewable energy," he added. "We've seen a lot of wind farms, and we've learned the government is in full support of further increasing the capacity of these. In the Philippines, this would save money and generate industry in the rural areas."

This is important, Calderon said, because many believe poverty in the Philippines' rural regions helps foster the discontent used by criminals and terrorists to lure recruits.

The group is looking at wind, bio mass, micro-hydro and solar power options, officials said.

Vallejo Chamber of Commerce head Rick Wells accompanied the group for part of its visit. He and chamber board president Michael Wilson said the delegation represents the potential for further business cooperation between the two countries.

"I got the sense that some extensive opportunities could be developed," Wells said. "I was really impressed. These were clearly high-level leaders, and the fact that they were willing to listen to what we had to say, and stayed with us at the Holiday Inn in Vallejo, was impressive."

Wilson said he was "impressed to see other governments and businesses looking to Vallejo as a model. That we're doing something so right. They chose Vallejo and Solano County because of the renewable energy elements we have actually going on."

Asera said his firm organized the visit from the American end.

"We're the in-country host," Asera said. "We've done a lot of work with USAID in the Philippines, helping build infrastructure. Solano and Yolo counties have some of the largest renewable energy projects. The City Hall and JFK library projects, for instance, are state-of-the-art and known worldwide."

Asera said that using Vallejo as its home base, the group visited Sacramento for talks with the Public Utilities and Energy commissions, as well as to Northern California wind farms including Rio Vista's.

"Besides the wind, solar and other renewable energy technologies, we're looking at incentives, tax breaks, that can be used to encourage investment," Badelles said. "We will make a legislative framework to fully develop and commercialize renewable energy in the Philippines."

- E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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