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Felino Bernardo on Renewables (and Marrying Miss America)

He is the President and COO of AboitizPower’s renewable energy development arm, AP Renewables, Inc. (APRI). He steers the company amid business expansion in an era where clean energy is a game-changer in the power industry. We had a chat with him and talked about renewable energy and his brush with ‘Captain America’.

 

Can you share with us your background before APRI?

I studied as an Electrical Engineer, and eventually ended up in Sales and Marketing. Just before APRI, I was part of American Standards, which is also a part of LIXIL Group of Companies, a Japanese company based out of Tokyo. Before heading LIXIL Philippines, I was also country manager for Kodak Philippines.

 

felino

What made you decide to accept the role in APRI?

A headhunter found me in LinkedIn and talked to me about this opportunity working for APRI, a renewable energy company. Since I have always thought of coming back to what I started, which is really power and engineering, that sort of attracted me to APRI, including the renewable aspect, which is very interesting.

 

What is the role of APRI in delivering the mission of AboitizPower?

The core of our mission in AboitizPower is to deliver reliable and ample energy, at a reasonable cost, with the least impact to the environment. Obviously for an operations company, we need to make sure that we will continuously be available at all times, and provide an energy resource to the grid at a reasonable cost. So, renewable is key to this mission because we provide a balance. We make sure we’re not dependent on one particular source of energy. There is coal, there is oil, but renewable gives us the flexibility in our energy portfolio.

 

What RE projects are you excited about?

I’d say that I’m most excited about our expansion outside the Philippines, for various reasons. Renewable energy itself is an exciting business opportunity. Working in an international environment, starting from exploration to putting up the power plant, coming up with new strategies how to operate internationally — those are new challenges to me.

Indonesia is a good country to operate in. Our success there will give us the opportunity to build on future successes, not only in Indonesia but future markets that we would like to enter. Similarly, it will teach us valuable lessons on how to improve our future operations or future explorations in international countries. There are so many things that we can gain from this experience, not only from the additional megawatts, additional business that we will get from that expansion.

 

What role would RE play in the future of Aboitiz and the country’s RE program?

Aboitiz as a whole is very much committed to exploring new opportunities in renewable  energy, particularly in geothermal. So we will continuously look for opportunities to expand and buy into existing geothermal operations.

I think APRI is in a unique situation because we have been operating power plants for more than 30 years. We have the wealth of experience and we take that experience and try to make it better, try to make it more organized, more structured, so that we can pass this wealth of experience to future generations of engineers for them to be able to operate power plants more reliably and more efficiently.

 

You just signed the Green Bonds with Asian Development Bank (ADB). Can you tell us more about it?

The climate bonds, like green bonds, are themed bonds. They’re given out by banks and financing institutions like the ADB. The sole beneficiary of climate bonds are energy projects that will help the environment. Before your bond gets rated as a climate bond, a London-based institution goes through the bond process, and studies the companies that apply for it.

It’s important, I think, for two reasons: a vote from the international community that our projects or operations are really helping the environment. All our processes in the power plant and the way that we address the community, the way that we operate in our communities, are all in line with ADB’s policies, international policies, and also the international standards on protecting the environment. So that’s a very strong vote. We are happy to be the first one in Asia to get the climate bonds.

Second, I think it’s also very important to realize that having international institutions like ADB giving us that loan, under the climate bond, is a very significant accomplishment. They realize the capability of APRI to operate efficiently and generate steady cash flows to pay the loan that we just took out. They believe in our strong processes, the ability of the company to deliver sustainable energy. So it’s a very strong vote of confidence for the organization. I’m happy that we are able to get these climate bonds from ADB.

 

I think APRI is in a unique situation because we have been operating power plants for more than 30 years. We have the wealth of experience and we take that experience and try to make it better, try to make it more organized, more structured, so that we can pass this wealth of experience to future generations of engineers for them to be able to operate power plants more reliably and more efficiently.


On a lighter note…
What makes you get up in the morning?

What motivates me I think are the challenges, personal and professional challenges. I get excited whenever I am doing something difficult, or something challenging — both mentally and physically. I try to wake up very early, I try to run, swim or exercise. I wake up at 4:30 in the morning, start exercising about 5, leave the house about 6:30 to beat the traffic.

 

What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time/weekend?

Golf is one of my passions — I am trying to beat 18 on the golf course. I will be part of the Aboitiz Golf Tournament.

On my spare time, I spend time with family, try new restaurants, hang with friends to catch up with things. I don’t have a favorite restaurant, my children and wife select a restaurant, and I just pay. (laughs)

 

FATHER TIME. Felino Bernardo and family on a visit to Scotland.
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. The Bernardo children on holiday in Scotland.
ADVENTURES IN FOOD. Felino and family enjoy their time discovering new places to eat.
ADVENTURES IN FOOD. Felino and family enjoy their time discovering new places to eat.

We saw you perform at the Recognition Night last year. Are we going to see another performance from you this September?

You want to go through the same thing? (laughs) But seriously, you know I didn’t know that it wasn’t a required performance for us. But anyway, I said yes because I like to have fun with colleagues, with my batchmates — I call them batchmates.

 

What’s your most memorable personal experience?

There’s no particular event that I can recall, but I think it’s a series of events. I’ve had many bosses, many supervisors — good supervisors, bad supervisors, excellent supervisors, good leaders, and so on and so forth. So, the only thing that I can recall is I always try to learn from the good ones, from everyone, the good things that they do. I also try to learn from the bad things bad bosses do. I try to incorporate all those things into how I manage my daily life and also how I manage my own organization. To me that’s the only thing, when you ask that question that’s the thing that pops into my head. So it’s really a series of things that you learn from other people, from the good things and the bad things.

 

QUITE A CATCH. Felino and the “former Miss America”.

Lastly, share us a trivia about yourself.

I know how to juggle so that’s one. But don’t ask me to do that on recognition night. A little bit about myself and my wife. I am married to a former Miss America — because her last name is America. (laughs) And you wouldn’t believe this, but her dad used to be with the Air Force. So I’m married to a former miss America, and my father in law was Captain America! (laughs) How many people can say that? My wife got dethroned when she got married to me.

 

 

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