Coal-plant owners unfazed by Lopez

by Lenie LecturaJuly 6, 2016

from Business Mirror

COAL-FIRED power-plant operators are unfazed by the pronouncement of Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez that all investments in coal power plants will be strictly scrutinized, saying they have complied with all the requirements in securing the necessary permits.

Aside from their compliance, officials of the power generators stressed that they only utilize the so-called clean-coal technology to mitigate the environmental impact of power generation using coal.

But according to Greepeace report, the so-called clean coal is merely an illusion. “Coal plants are the biggest source of man-made carbon-dioxide emissions. This makes coal energy the single greatest threat facing our climate,” it said, adding that coal-plant emissions may cause over 2,400 premature deaths in the country. 

It also said the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology, a proposal to capture carbon emissions from power plants and bury these, won’t be ready for at least another 20 years. “By then, it would be too late to save the climate. The vague promises of CCS are being used to justify building new coal plants.”

Aboitiz Power Corp. President and COO Antonio Moraza defended the company’s coal operations. “We feel that we operate within the standards set, so there should not be a problem,” he said in a text message when sought for comment.

AboitizPower is the holding company for the Aboitiz Group’s investments in power generation, distribution, retail and power services.

In its annual report released in May, the company said its portfolio of generation assets accounts for 16 percent of the country’s installed generation capacity. Of this, 1,957 megawatts (MW) are base-load coal and oil-fired power plants, while 1,217 MW are renewable energy (RE).

The power firm’s coal-fired power plants include the 300-MW facility of AboitizPower subsidiary Therma South Inc.; the 700-MW Pagbilao plant of another subsidiary Therma Power and its partner; the 210-MW plant of AboitizPower and partners; and the 246-MW facility of AboitizPower and a partner.

DMCI Holdings Inc. President Isidro Consunji said Semirara Mining and Power Corp. and DMCI Power Corp. have secured the necessary permits from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for their various power projects. 

“We have ECCs [environmental compliance certificates] to prove that we are compliant,” he said via text message when asked for comment.

Besides, he added, the company is yet to receive any new directive from the DENR. “We have not received any information on new instructions from the DENR. All I am saying is that we have secured ECCs as proof that we have complied with the government’s requirements,” Consunji said.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi is aware of the Climate Change Commission’s stand regarding the continued use of coal-power plants, as well as the policy pronouncement of Lopez.

He said he was prepared to sit down and discuss this with the new DENR chief to find the “right balance,” since the country “can’t afford not to have coal.”

“If coal is not the solution, what is the alternative? You have to find that balance—the energy mix cannot all be renewable energy. If it’s RE, why not? But we have to be realistic. We will discuss that. We have to help one another find the solution,” Cusi said.

Data from the DOE showed the Philippines will see nearly 5,000 MW of new power plants being built until 2020, of which over 70 percent are coal-based.

Under the DOE’s current fuel-mix policy, the country should source 30 percent of its energy requirements from coal, 30 percent from RE and another 30 percent from natural gas. The remaining 10 percent will come from oil-based power plants.

Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc. (Acri) of the Alcantara Group, mean-while, said its four power plants operate at emission levels that are even lower than those allowed by the DENR.  

“As Mindanao’s first and most experienced independent power producer,  we, at  Alsons Power, have consistently complied with the DENR and global standards for allowable  emissions since the start of operations of our first power plant in 1993,” Acri Chairman Tomas Alcantara said in an e-mail reply.

He added that Acri is strongly supporting the Duterte administration’s policy of a balanced energy mix between renewable and traditional sources of power.

“We, at Alsons Power, also admire  and share Energy Secretary Regina Paz  L. Lopez’s  staunch advocacy and passion to preserve and protect our environment. Alsons Power welcomes Energy Secretary Cusi’s  statement that he is prepared to sit down with Secretary Lopez to discuss the need to strike the right balance between having adequate, reliable energy supply and a cleaner environment,” he added.

Among others, Acri is involved in the 210-MW Sarangani Energy Corp.(SEC) baseload coal-fired power plant in Maasim, Sarangani, and the 105-MW San Ramon Power Inc. baseload coal-fired power plant in Talisayan, Zamboanga City.

By 2019, Acri-affiliated power facilities will have around 588 MW of generating capacity, approximately 25 percent of Mindanao’s projected peak-power demand for that year.  First Philippine Holdings (FPH) Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Federico Lopez said earlier that First Gen Corp. would not invest in coal-fired power plants.

“Today let me state unequivocally and for the record that the FPH and its subsidiaries will not build, develop or invest in any coal-fired power plant. I’m certain that, without having to look too far, this country already has many alternatives that do not mortgage the future of our children and future of our planet,” Lopez said.

He said the Lopez Group would push for the development of geothermal-power plants, as well as RE. 

The company’s declaration against investing in coal-fired power plants would affect the company’s business prospects moving forward.

“It’s just a matter of shifting our focus elsewhere. It is quite liberating because we are going where the rest of the world is headed, and for me, it is important for the country to embrace this,” Lopez said.

First Gen earlier urged the government to increase the share of RE in the country’s power-generation mix to 50 percent to counter the damaging effects of climate change.

Lopez said the remaining 50 percent of the generation mix could be shared by other sources, including low-carbon emission power projects.

First Gen owns the 1,000-MW Santa Rita and the 500-MW San Lorenzo gas plants in Batangas City.

It is developing two more gas plants—the 97-MW Avion open-cycle and the 414-MW San Gabriel combined cycle natural gas plant.