DOE chief says No moratorium on coal plant projects

By Myrna M. Velasco – August 27, 2019, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

The Department of Energy (DOE) has forthrightly indicated that it will not be enforcing “moratorium” on coal-fired power plant developments in the country; and will adopt the same policy for all types of technologies in the sector.

Alfonso G. Cusi

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi told a budget hearing in Congress that “moratorium on any technology is a disservice to our country.”

When quizzed by Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez if the energy department would still continue to approve applications for coal plant projects, the energy chief asserted “that will all depend on the need of the country.”

Cusi reiterated that the Philippine energy mix policy is anchored on a technology-neutral approach and that the department will not be putting caps on capacity installations – including for developments in the renewable energy sector.

Rodriguez similarly told the energy department that if coal plant installations will carry on for the country, the Philippines may not be able to achieve its intended nationally-determined contributions (INDC) that was submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) under the Paris agreement of 2015.

But Cusi argued such pledge in the global climate change diplomacy is not solely anchored on the carbon emissions of the coal plants, but along with the environmental impacts of other sectors in the country: such as the transport sector (land and air transport); agri-business and industries, as well as forests, oceans and other vulnerable sectors.

And relative to the coal–fired power facilities, Cusi noted that the Philippine energy sector is still at the top when it comes to environmental sustainability – and the areas it will need to improve on are more on energy security (which has something to do with reliability of supply); and energy access which delves with both costs and access to electricity service.

By far, coal remains the dominant fuel in meeting the country’s energy needs – and this is seen unabated in the coming years as the main power grid is seen hitting supply-demand equilibrium again around 2021-2022. Absent a government policy restricting or limiting coal in the energy mix, power project developers are still keen on embracing it as a technology option because they deem it to be a cheaper recourse in meeting the country’s need for baseload capacity in the system.

Baseload capacity refers to the generating units that could supply power to end-users round the clock – and in the technology neutral approach of the government, the project developers are given a free hand on their technology deployment preference.

The need for capacity additions in the main power grid of Luzon became manifest when the system suffered from new round of breaking points as demand surges in this year’s summer months.