Coal-fired power plants definitely not out

by Lenie LecturaJuly 19, 2016

from Business Mirror

A “strategic” energy-mix policy is now being crafted by the Department of Energy (DOE) following President Duterte’s pronouncement that his administration will not honor the December 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, which the Philippines adopted along with 200 countries.

The mix would definitely include coal, as Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said the country needs diversified energy sources to support a growing economy.

“The DOE is formulating a strategic fuel policy mix to propel the country’s growing economy,” Cusi said. “While we signed the Paris Agreement last year, committing ourselves to limit our carbon emissions, we cannot ignore the fact that our level of economic development at this point does not allow us to rely completely on renewable-energy sources or clean energy,” the energy chief commented.

“We need to build more baseload power plants while also aggressively pushing for clean energy,” Cusi added.

The DOE, he said, is working with the National Economic Development Authority, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Climate Change Commission to develop a balanced and sustainable energy-policy framework.

“We will chart our own course insofar as energy is concerned to ensure energy-supply security, considering that developing countries, like the Philippines, have low carbon emissions. President Duterte is correct in saying that the country is still in the process of industrialization. We must, therefore, use whatever energy resources are available and affordable for power generation,” Cusi said.

Cusi’s predecessor, Zenaida Y. Monsada, was earlier pushing for the industry to source 30 percent of its energy requirements from coal, 30 percent from renewable energy and another 30 percent from natural gas. The remaining 10 percent will come from oil-based power plants.

Monsada, when she was still the DOE secretary, was hoping that the new administration would push for the legislation of a power-mix policy.

Just recently, Aboitiz Power Corp. stressed the need for a balanced mix of power—including coal—to ensure reliable and affordable power supply.

“Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about coal and whether we should be building additional coal capacity. However, technology and best practices of clean and responsible coal are available today. In fact, if you visit these modern coal plants, you will see that the host communities are thriving and unaffected negatively by these power plants,” Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV) President and CEO Erramon Aboitiz said.

AEV’s power arm, AboitizPower, supports renewable energy. While it strongly encourages the use of renewables, “we cannot be totally dependent on them.”

Renewable energy, he said, is intermittent and dependent on the availability of the resource used, whether it be the sun, rain or wind—let alone the cost of impact.

“As a developing country sourcing approximately 40 percent of our power requirements from renewable sources and a carbon footprint much lower than the developed world, with a need to be globally competitive to protect our jobs and our economy, we should be careful not to get ahead of ourselves and cognizant of the increased cost in adopting renewables. Bottom line—we need to have a balanced mix of responsible power,” he said.

Coal, as source of power, is cheaper than renewable energy. This is the reason more coal plants are put up by power firms.

“Affordability is, indeed, top of mind for our regulators and the community at large; but in times of shortage, we all realize that the most expensive power is ‘no power.’ While I totally agree that the role of regulators is to protect the consumer and ensure the power he is paying is reasonable and competitive, the other equally important responsibility is to make sure power capacity is built as required and the only way this will happen is if developers get a reasonable return on their investment,” he said in a recent forum.

The DOE, Cusi said, stands firm in promoting energy efficiency and conservation to complement the thrust for clean-energy development, following the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions on climate-change mitigation efforts.

“We will continue to adhere to internationally accepted environmental standards in our energy use,” Cusi said.

President Duterte said the Paris Agreement on climate change is “blocking the progress of developing countries, like the Philippines,” and that the industrialized countries are “dictating the destiny” of developing ones by requiring them to cut carbon emissions.