DOE eyes ‘options’ to boost electricity supply, Cusi says

By Lenie Lectura – November 4, 2016

from Business Mirror

The Department of Energy (DOE) is now looking at other options to boost the country’s power supply following President Duterte’s pronouncement that no nuclear power plant would be put up during his six-year term.

“We are always looking for options available. We have been saying from the beginning that all options would be explored, without any bias, because that’s our job,” Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said. Annual electricity demand in the country is expected to rise by an average 5 percent until 2030.

As Chief Executive, Cusi said President Duterte is considered as a “master planner” and an “architect” of the country.

“There are other things he is considering. I still have to ask him about that,” Cusi added.

In August the energy secretary was quoted as saying that he is not against nuclear power.  “As energy secretary, it is my duty to study all options to ensure a secure power supply for the coming generation,” he said.

Industry stakeholders earlier visited the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant to assess if the 40-year-old mothballed plant can still be revived. The facility was never used when construction was finished in 1984.

Cusi stressed the need for the country to identify base-load power sources. Coal, he said, is one. “Nuclear can be included in the long term.” “At the moment, we have three base-load power sources. These are coal, geothermal and gas. Sometimes, hydro comes in. For nuclear, maybe it can be under the long-term plan. We are looking at this,” he said.

The country’s power-generation mix as of end of 2015 is composed of 45-percent coal, 25-percent renewable, 23 percent natural gas and 7-percent  oil. On the other hand, 2015 installed capacity mix is made up of 66-percent fossil fuels, 15 percent of which is in natural gas.

“Right now, nuclear energy is zero,” Cusi said. “We have to search for proper energy mix that would secure power supply in the future. Kailangan natin ’yung [We need] energy supply not coming from one basket, hindi lang pwede [not] from coal, gas, or from oil. Kailangan magkaroon tayo ng [We need to have the] proper combination.”

Duterte, citing safety concerns, said it’s unlikely that the country will adopt nuclear energy during his six-year term, because of safety concerns. The President said nuclear energy remains an important option in the future, but the Philippines needs to undertake a study and put “really tight safeguards” in place.

“Not, maybe, during my presidency…. Not now, because we have to come up with safeguards, really, really tight safeguards, to assure that there will be no disasters if there is a nuclear leak or explosion,” Duterte said late Tuesday in response to a reporter’s question about his view of nuclear energy.

Proponents argue that nuclear energy would lessen the country’s dependence on dirty fossil fuels and help the economy take off. Critics, however, are concerned about safety in a country crisscrossed by seismic fault lines with a history of destructive earthquakes.

Construction of the Philippines’s first nuclear power plant began in 1977, under the late strongman former President Ferdinand Marcos in Bataan province, about 80 kilometers west of Manila. The plant was completed in 1985, but in early 1986 then-President Corazon Aquino ordered it mothballed because of safety concerns and allegations that its builder, Westinghouse Electric Corp., had bribed Marcos through a local businessman to win the contract. The plant was allegedly constructed near a fault line and a dormant volcano.

The plant cost the government more than $2 billion, considerably increasing the country’s foreign debt.