Aquino OKs energy-policy review to wean PHL from coal addiction

by Jonathan L. MayugaMay 26, 2016

from Business Mirror

THE Climate Change Commission (CCC) is set to lead a sweeping review of the country’s energy policy to cut down the country’s dependence on coal as fuel source, and prompt a shift toward a low-carbon development path.

President  Aquino, who is also the chairman of the climate-change body, signed on May 18 Commission Resolution 2016-001, a move lauded by environmental and climate justice activists. The resolution designates the CCC to lead key government agencies in facilitating within the next six months the national policy review and framework development toward low-carbon pathway.

According to the CCC, the resolution is envisioned to set in place a clear government policy on coal-fired power plants, which are the biggest sources of man-made carbon emissions, accounting for about 35 percent of global greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions.

Aside from the President, CCC Vice Chairman Emmanuel de Guzman and commissioners Frances Veronica Victorino and Noel Antonio Gaerlan signed the resolution.

Under the resolution, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) are urged to harmonize policies and regulations on new and existing coal-fired power plants, and assess their impacts on the environment, as well as include low-carbon development and climate-change adaptation and mitigation strategies in the formulation of all national and local development plans.

According to de Guzman, the review will pave the way for a swift transition to renewable energy; enhance energy efficiency and conservation; and ensure clean, affordable and reliable energy for the entire country.

The country currently has 19 operating coal-fired power plants, and 27 other projects have been approved and are now in various stages of development. With these projects having been completed, the share of coal in the country’s energy mix is expected to further go up.

Around 70 percent of the DOE-approved projects that will go online in 2019 will be from coal, which would also mean that by 2021 the overall dependence on coal will be at 50 percent, as compared to 39 percent in 2016.

Ironically, six years after the passage of the renewable-energy (RE) law, the RE component in the overall power mix was 34 percent. Since then, RE share went down by 5 percent.

According to de Guzman, the expected transition, as hoped for in the signing of the CCC resolution, is supported by existing laws. These laws, such as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2011 and the RE law of 2008, are both for environment-friendly, indigenous and low-cost sources of energy, according to pundits.

De Guzman added that the CCC resolution is an affirmation of the government’s resolve to mainstream low-carbon development pathway, in accordance with the country’s commitment under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its intended nationally determined contribution (INDC).

Meanwhile, the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development, led by its convener Gerry Arances, said the move is a welcome development and may, in fact, be a legacy of Mr. Aquino, whose six-year term will officially end on June 30.

“While it might be late, dahil ang tagal nang demand ito, we are still lauding this move by the President for heeding the call of communities and various sectors in finally leaving behind a legacy of starting the shift to clean and renewable energy,” Arances said.

Arances further challenged President Aquino to order the DOE and the DENR to halt all permitting processes and do the necessary review and corresponding interventions to upscale accessible, affordable and safe RE systems in the country.

In October last year, the Philippines submitted during the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC its INDC, promising to reduce the country’s GHG emissions by 70 percent by 2030.

The INDC is subject to support provided by developed countries.

The reductions will come from the energy, transport, waste, forestry and industry sectors.

As a member of the UNFCCC, the Philippines supported the adoption of the global climate accord reached in Paris, France, in December last year. Last month in New York, President Aquino—through Environment Secretary Ramon JP Paje—signed the Paris Agreement in behalf of the Philippines, on the recommendation of the Cabinet Cluster on Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.

“Philippine climate ambition is predicated on changing our energy pathways that ensure we send the right policy signals to the investment community and generate jobs for the modern economy,” de Guzman said.

He said an urgent review of the government’s energy policy is necessary given the growing number of new coal-power plants in the country and the global demand for drastic GHG emission reductions to achieve the primary goal of the new global climate deal reached in Paris last year, which is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“We must aim for nothing less than the transformation of the Philippine economy with a low carbon-energy development pathway,” he added.