DOE to set stricter standards on coal plants

by Myrna Velasco – February 21, 2016

from Manila Bulletin

Having been thrown at the receiving end of criticisms for gracing a coal plant inauguration with President Benigno Aquino III, Energy Secretary Zenaida Y. Monsada has told reporters that they are now imposing stricter standards on capacity installations of such technology type.

“We are meeting with the coal plants’ operators and generators … our mandate is: We have to be more strict with standards, especially on the emissions, the fuel quality and even on their coal storage,” she said.

In a downcast tone, Monsada averred that once and for all, she wants to give the government’s side of the story why they continued to allow coal plant investments for the sake of keeping sustained and affordable power supply for the country.

“I would like to take this opportunity to explain because there are groups saying why are you inaugurating coal power plants despite the country’s commitment in COP-21 (21st Conference of the Parties)… the task of the DOE is to ensue sufficient and reliable power, but not just any kind of power,” she expounded.

COP21 is in reference to the recently concluded global diplomatic talks on climate change issues with the United Nations in the lead. In that gathering of world leaders and experts, coal had been “bedeviled” as the number one assault to the planet given its massive contribution to heat-trapping emission that intensifies global warming.

Monsada added that “it just happened that the power plants being inaugurated now are coal plants because that was the preference of the private investors based on the country’s power supply problems – because they can be built base load at sizeable capacity and also a cheaper option.”

It is her wish though that the power mix will eventually re-balance, with private investors also looking ultimately at “cleaning their generally-labeled dirty acts.”

The energy chief added that they are also undertaking inventory of the entire power system to re-assess what the sector just actually needs in terms of base load capacity, mid-merit, or peaking facilities.

“We have to explore a lot of options. In the Power Development Plan, we are categorizing power plants based on baseload, mid-merit and peaking… we can’t have all baseload plants, we need to balance that’s why the mix will eventually correct itself,” she stressed.

DOE director Irma Exconde added that modified planning and the proposed enforcement of stricter coal technology standards is now in the cards for the department’s fortified policy crafting.

“Our technical people are reviewing the parameters that we should be looking at in terms of structure…like what technology the coal plants are using, the kind of coal fed into the plants and the added buffer installed to protect nearby communities,” she said.

The department indicated that there are now roughly 20 coal plants operating around the country; and the technology’s share in the Philippine power mix is already at a high of 40 to 45 percent.