The past decade has been characterized by an increasing concern over the environment and resource use, specifically in the area of energy use and conservation. Higher demand for energy by households and industries have put pressure on non-renewable sources of energy. This has resulted in rising prices, and along with the increasing threat of climate change brought about by the continuous burning of fossil fuels, interest in renewable and alternative sources of energy has further intensified. Among the key economic justifications for promoting and developing the alternative and renewable energy sector are energy security, environmental impacts and the mitigation of the respective climate change effects, and economic developmental potentials, i.e., economic growth, poverty alleviation, and job creation. Although technological advancements have made opportunities for the growth of the sector possible, its feasibility has often been put to question, as the costs associated with these renewable energy sources are higher compared to those associated with conventional energy sources. Thus, it is an imperative that efforts to innovate in energy use and generation take account of these economic concerns, that is, to advance economic development in line with the economics of energy.
The socio-economic impacts of renewable energy cannot be understated owing to its great potential as a catalyst for economic development especially in the rural areas. This necessitates complementarity between technical energy studies and socio-economic studies to be able to craft sound renewable energy policies. Policies on renewable energy must take into account the issue of how the latter would be beneficial to rural areas, specifically its potential to be a source of additional employment opportunities, which should contribute to rural economic development and poverty reduction. This gives the assessment of renewable energy issues a holistic nature. This holistic treatment of renewable energy issues, specifically on its potential impacts on rural economic development, necessitates a multidisciplinary character of the corresponding research done to address such issues. It is further enforced by taking into account the needs of various stakeholder groups, the latter giving different perspectives from which renewable energy issues can be tackled.
Thus, a collaborative effort from different academic and research units of UPLB may provide better opportunities for the University in the area of energy studies and rural development. The Rural Economic Development and Renewable Energy Policy Program (REDREPP) spearheaded by the Department of Economics seeks to lead this effort. It seeks to conduct, coordinate, and facilitate research in renewable energy development and policy with special focus on its impact on rural economic development. It aims to provide renewable energy policy analysis and advise to government, civil society, and the business sector. The key activities and services of REDREPP are:
Key outputs will include Policy briefs, Working papers, Research papers, Training manuals, Renewable energy information database, and Documentation of conferences, seminars and workshops.
The significance of the program on Renewable Energy and its importance to rural economic development is given emphasis by naming a CEM building ‘REDREC’ (stands for Rural Economic Development and Renewable Energy Center). The building was constructed through the initiative of Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri who authored the bill that led to the enactment of Republic Act No. 9513, known as the Renewable Energy Act of 2008. This is an Act promoting the development, utilization and commercialization of renewable energy resources and for other purposes. With additional funding from UPLB through Chancellor Fernando C. Sanchez Jr. to complete the REDREC facilities, the building was finally inaugurated on April 26, 2013. The leadership of CEM including Deans Dr. Liborio S. Cabanilla, Dr. Flordeliza A. Lantican and Dr. Isabelita M. Pabuayon facilitated the REDREC partnership with Sen. Zubiri and the CEM Alumni Foundation Inc. (CEMAFI).