Overview Investments in renewable energy generation are vital for transitioning to more sustainable systems. However, they can encounter resistance from local communities, despite being beneficial to the broader population and the country as a whole. Embedding social benefits in the design of renewable energy projects is crucial to mitigate any potential drawbacks experienced by local communities. In 2015, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided a $20-million loan to EDC Burgos Wind Power Corporation (EBWPC) to help finance one of the largest wind farms in the Philippines—the 150-megawatt (MW) Burgos Wind Farm Project in the northern province of Ilocos Norte. The loan was part of a $315 million syndicated debt facility arranged to refinance the development and construction of the project. The project has installed a total wind power capacity of 150 MW. Since commencing operations in 2014 until the end of 2022, it has delivered 2,800 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity to the grid, powering over 200,000 households and avoiding approximately 220,000 tons of CO2 per year on average. The wind farm also presented challenges to the local community and the environment. Through proactive community engagement and sustainable development practices, the EBWPC collaborated with local stakeholders to address concerns, avoid adverse project effects, and maximize development outcomes. Challenges Wind projects require land for turbines and associated infrastructure in locations with sustainable wind exposure. Suitable land may need to be repurposed, potentially altering land use or necessitating the displacement of residents. These challenges can significantly impact communities and agricultural activities. Furthermore, the construction process and alterations in land use can result in localized environmental impacts, such as habitat disruption and soil erosion. The Burgos Wind Farm Project started in 2013 and initially raised doubts, if not resistance, among local residents. They feared potential environmental impact, potential loss of livelihood, and grievances regarding inadequate land acquisition, including the possible inability to access the communal grazing land. The project’s 43-kilometer transmission line, which consists of 128 towers and 20 steel poles, traverses 29 districts (barangays) within the municipalities of Burgos, Pasuquin, and Bacarra to connect to the nearest substation of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) located in Laoag City, the provincial capital. For the installation of this sizeable wind farm, as many as 10,319 trees had to be cut down, posing significant threats to the environment. Farmers were also required to surrender farmlands to make way for the wind farm site. Losing land, even if compensated, can affect the livelihood and can cause unrest among the affected community. Reservations expressed by national and local governments, local communities and landowners—many of whom were farmers—significantly impacted the land acquisition process. Context The Philippines is expanding its renewable energy industry in a bid to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The country has approximately 250,000 MW of untapped renewable energy resources, and the Philippine Department of Energy has set a goal to add around 2,870 MW from renewable sources by 2030. The wind farm significantly contributes to the government's strategy to broaden its energy resources and decrease the emission of greenhouse gases that are harmful to the climate. Located 535 kilometers north of the country’s capital Manila, Ilocos Norte was identified in a study by the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory as one of the areas in the Philippines with the most potential for wind energy generation. The wind farm was the first wind project nominated for the government’s feed-in-tariff incentive scheme, a policy to support the development of renewable energy sources by providing a guaranteed fixed price per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to the producers. Solutions Working with the local communities and involving them in the measures to safeguard the environment helped avert potential threats and maximize socio-economic benefits in several ways: Protecting biodiversity. To mitigate potential environmental damage, the project adhered to the government’s National Greening Program (NGP), as stipulated in the Tree Cutting Permit issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Following the NGP model, the project was required to provide and plant 100 seedlings for every tree cut down. As of 2022, 1,272,900 seedlings were planted in NGP-designated areas identified in neighboring towns outside of the project site by the DENR. The project entered into contracts with three people’s organizations—the Saguigui Tribal Council, Bacsil Upland Farmers Association, and the Paddagan Upland Planters Association—to reforest denuded areas, while making their organizations economically sustainable. During the pandemic, the project launched the BINHI Communitree, an online platform that promotes tree-growing activities among employees of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the managing entity of EBWPC, and its partner organizations. BINHI Communitree is part of EDC’s BINHI Program, a nationwide forest landscape restoration program aimed at rehabilitating degraded forests in the Philippines through the propagation and planting of 96 species of threatened native tree species. The project contributed to the BINHI program by partnering with 23 schools to establish native tree arboretums. Wind turbines can pose a collision risk to flying animals like birds and bats. As part of security patrols, the project monitors bird and bat strikes daily. Supporting and restoring livelihoods. The project contributed to the empowerment of local communities by teaching them to be environmental stewards and supporting their livelihoods. Within the project site, women were organized into the Association of Burgos Agri-based Entrepreneurs (ABA-Entrep) to help reinstate vegetation lost when the wind farm was constructed, as part of the forest land use agreement (FLAg) with DENR. At first, ABA-Entrep members were engaged by the project through reinstatement activities such as replanting, watering, applying fertilizer, weeding, and mulching. They were formally organized in 2021 to be eligible for livelihood support from the project. Aside from the ongoing engagement in reinstatement and reforestation efforts, ABA-Entrep also received 21 goats from the project for their collective management. To alleviate the impact of land acquisition on economically vulnerable families, the project developed a livelihood restoration program in consultation with the affected families. As part of this program, 10 households who lost more than 10% of their productive land received cattle from the project for them to breed and raise. The wind project helps boost local tourism by becoming a new tourist destination of Burgos. Souvenir items sold in tourist spots like Cape Bojeador Lighthouse and Kapurpurawan Rock Formation now include the Burgos windmill. Creating jobs. The construction, operation, and maintenance of the wind farm created job opportunities for local residents. During the construction of the wind farm, the project employed locals as laborers, welders, masons, and security officers. Managing land issues. The project convened landowners to address their individual concerns and consistently provided legal assistance to those with land ownership issues. The project's approach to obtaining land rights through land lease agreements avoids acquiring full land ownership titles, allowing landowners to continually use their lands throughout the project while earning from the lease payments. Empowering local governments. The project collaborated with village/barangay officials and municipal government officials to plan and execute activities under EBWPC’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. Twice a year, community-wide consultations were organized in the three host barangays of the wind farm (Saoit, Nagsurot, and Poblacion) to update the affected residents on the project’s operational status and its compliance with national laws and standards. Stakeholder engagement was strengthened through the introduction of a grievance redress mechanism, informative campaigns, and a platform for gathering and addressing issues and concerns. Providing educational assistance. Addressing the needs of affected communities entails a holistic approach. An educational assistance project started in 2020 and helped 12 students from Burgos gain access to tertiary education through scholarships. Apart from getting free education in private universities, the scholars were given laptops, Wi-Fi modems, and other school essentials. The conditions for their scholarship included the development and implementation of environment-related projects. The project assisted several schools in Burgos and in neighboring towns either by supporting their Brigada Eskwela (school maintenance) Programs through the donation of materials for the repair or upgrading of classrooms, constructing toilets and handwashing facilities, or building ferro-cement rainwater harvesting tanks to address water scarcity. Monitoring noise level and shadow flicker. The project regularly monitors noise levels in the wind farm, ensuring compliance with DENR standards. Similarly, it surveys and closely monitors shadow flicker in nearby households to address any concerns. To date, no grievances have been reported for any of the issues, demonstrating effective mitigation. Supporting community resiliency. During the pandemic, the project extended a total of ₱4.5 million worth of support, including the donation of medical supplies, personal protective equipment (PPE), and relief goods throughout the quarantine period. Recognizing the importance of early detection, isolation, and treatment in the fight against COVID-19, the project helped enhance the capacity of the COVID-19 molecular testing laboratory established by the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center in Batac City by donating an RNA extraction machine, extraction kits, PCR kits, and transport media. To mitigate the loss of livelihood of communities in the area during the pandemic, the project initiated ecobrick production out of non-recyclable plastic waste. The company provided cash assistance to households by exchanging 100 pesos for every 1.5 L ecobrick. Between October to December 2020, households from 11 barangays in Burgos collected a total of 1,500 ecobricks, amounting to an equivalent volume of 1,100 kgs of plastic waste. The collected ecobricks were utilized in constructing an ecobrick shed with rainwater harvesting facility in the BINHI tree park inside the wind farm. Results Community engagement, transparency, and responsible project management play crucial roles in maximizing project benefits and mitigating risks. The Burgos wind farm has become a symbol of local innovation, progress, and commitment to environmental sustainability, fostering community pride. Environmental benefits and livelihood assistance. By generating clean and renewable energy and planting trees, the Burgos wind farm has reduced carbon dioxide emissions that would have otherwise been emitted if this electricity had been generated by typical power plants. An added impact stems from the planting of 790,980 indigenous seedlings as part of NGP in the towns of Pagudpud and Bangui. These environmental benefits were further scaled up through the project’s partnership with 23 local schools in restoring native tree species on denuded lands through the project’s BINHI Green Legacy Program. Since 2015, no threatened or endangered species have been found in the project areas. In May 2017, the project installed bird flight deflectors along a section of the transmission line following the detection of the Philippine duck Anas luzonica, classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Ten vulnerable families were identified as beneficiaries of a cattle dispersal program as part of the project’s livelihood restoration strategy. In 2016, five cattle intended for breeding and fattening were awarded to the farmers under the program. As of 2022, ABA-Entrep, comprising women members, has led the planting of 1,504 seedlings in four sites inside the wind farm area of 8,099 square meters. They planted Narra, Ebony, and Tindalo trees while getting paid for their labor and learning to become independent women entrepreneurs through the funds generated by the association. Financial benefits. The host communities, including barangays Poblacion, Saoit, and Nagsurot, as well as the municipal and provincial governments of Burgos and Ilocos Norte respectively, receive a small financial share from the sale of electricity generated by the Burgos wind farm calculated as 1 centavo per kWh. This practice aligns with the Department of Energy’s Regulation No. 1-94 ensuring that host communities receive a share of the profit from power plants operating in their area to fund community projects. In 2022 alone, host communities and local government units received a combined amount of ₱1,078,599 ($18,980) for their development and livelihood funds (DLF); and reforestation, watershed management, health and/or environment enhancement funds (RWMHEEF). The project organized a series of discussions and training sessions for local governments to provide training on project planning and the preparation of necessary documentation for processing their claims from the DLF and RWMHEEF. Employment of residents. During the construction phase from 2013 to 2014, a total of 976 local jobs were created, including 928 through the contractors. At the same time, 140 out-of-school youths were given skills training, and most of them were later hired to assist in the construction. About 70% of the 156 employees of the wind farm are local residents. Acquiring land rights peacefully. The acquisition of rights to use private lands for the project was achieved through lease contract agreements, which were deemed socially and legally acceptable to affected landowners. The involuntary resettlement of these individuals was managed through the establishment of a grievance mechanism, conducting consultations at the barangay and household levels, providing legal support, and implementing a livelihood restoration plan for landowners situated along the transmission line where more than 10% of productive lands were affected by the project. A total of 467 hectares of private land consisting of 273 lots were peacefully acquired for the project through lease agreements. Since 2014, the project has won seven international awards, including the Project Finance International’s (PFI) 2014 Asia–Pacific Renewable Deal of the Year, 2015 Asia Projects of the Year, and Asia Best Practices Citation. It also received citations from city and provincial environment and natural resources offices for efforts to reinstate areas disturbed by the project. Lessons The participation of communities and local governments in various aspects of renewable energy project implementation fosters a sense of project ownership, helps build and sustain safeguards against possible adverse effects to the environment, helps create local socioeconomic value, and encourages support for an inclusive energy transition. Developing a renewable energy project entails strengthening relations with host communities and affected landowners. It is essential to establish a livelihood restoration plan to mitigate project impacts on affected and economically vulnerable households, with consistent monitoring. The optimal approach to implementing CSR programs involves consulting with the barangay, municipal, and provincial governments of the host communities. The Burgos Wind Farm Project contributed to job creation and sustainable livelihoods by mobilizing local residents in environmental initiatives and fostering a more favorable attitude toward renewables. This combination of co-benefits—providing clean energy to aid the Philippines in achieving its climate goals while promoting environmental benefits, community resilience, and employment—acts as a multiplier of this project’s development impact. Resources Asian Development Bank (ADB). 2019. 150-Megawatt Burgos Wind Farm Project: Extended Annual Review Report. Manila. ADB. 2018. Philippines Energy Sector Assessment, Strategy, and Road Map. Manila. Department of Energy. 2018. Philippine Energy Plan 2017-2040: Sectoral Plans and Roadmaps. Manila. EDC Burgos Wind Power Corporation (EBWPC). 2022. Environmental and Social Monitoring Report on Philippines: 150-Megawatt Burgos Wind Farm Project (Annual Report). Manila. EBWPC. 2014. Social Safeguards Compliance Audit Report. Manila. International Trade Association. 2020. Philippines Energy Market. Accessed on 19 September 2023. Ask the Experts Manfred Kiefer Principal Economist, Private Sector Operations Department, Asian Development Bank Manfred Kiefer is primarily involved in assessing development results of ADB’s investments. Prior to this role, he worked as energy economist and development results specialist at different international financial institutions. He holds an MSc in Economics from Freie Universität Berlin. Follow Manfred Kiefer on Siela Teng-Almocera Senior Social Development Officer (Safeguards), Office of Safeguards, Asian Development Bank Siela Teng-Almocera has been part of the social safeguards team for private sector operations since she joined ADB in 2017. As a senior social development officer (safeguards), she processes and supervises projects across Asia and the Pacific in energy, transport, water, agriculture, telecommunications, and financial sectors. She holds a post-graduate diploma in Urban and Regional Planning and has a bachelor of science degree in Development Communication from the University of the Philippines. She is also a licensed environmental planner. Grachelle Talicuran Safeguards Officer, Office of Safeguards, Asian Development Bank Grace Talicuran has been with ADB since 2017 and is a member of the environment team for private sector operations. She supports ADB’s private sector investment teams and clients in processing and implementing various projects across Asia and the Pacific. Prior to joining ADB, Grace worked as a civil engineer and environmental specialist in an engineering consultancy company in the Philippines. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila. Leave your question or comment in the section below: View the discussion thread.