‘Long, uphill climb before PHL could rid of coal dependence for power generation’

by Lenie LecturaJuly 20, 2016

from Business Mirror

The country is still very much dependent on coal as a source of power, amid increasing support and encouragement for the utilization of renewable energy (RE).

“In terms of electricity production, we have noticed a high dependency on coal recorded at 44 percent as of March 2016. Natural gas and renewable energy supplied 22 percent and 25 percent, respectively,” Department of Energy (DOE) Officer in Charge Undersecretary Mylene Capongcol said in her welcome speech during the fourth Annual Philippines Power and Electricity Week.

“While we saw significant growth in the use of variable renewable energy due to the different incentives provided by the Renewable Energy Act, the supply of electricity from hydro had been adversely affected by El Niño, registering a 1-percent decline over the past five years,” she added.

The DOE official said the country managed to achieve a balanced energy-supply mix in 2015, with oil accounting for around 31 percent; followed by coal at 23-percent share; geothermal at 19-percent share; natural gas and hydro accounts for around 10 percent; while other RE sources, such as biomass, solar and wind, comprised the remaining 17 percent.

More than 53 percent of the country’s total energy requirement is largely being supplied by indigenous energy, while 47 percent accounts for imported oil, mainly used for transport and coal, used for generating electricity.

The DOE is collaborating with the Climate Change Commission (CCC), the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and  the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in crafting a sustainable national energy policy that will decide on the future of coal-power projects in the country. “For now, we encourage power generation using high efficient and innovative technologies to meet the expected demand in electricity,” she said.

The new administration targets a GDP growth of 6 percent to 7 percent in 2016; 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent in 2017; and 7 percent to 8 percent until 2022, with most of the spending expected to support higher infrastructure needed to deliver basic services to the people.  As such, higher growth for energy use, specifically for electricity, is expected, entailing significant amount of investments mainly coming from the private sector, Capongcol said.

“I am taking this opportunity, therefore, to provide a glimpse of what the Philippine energy sector offers,” she added.

For the upstream oil-and-gas development, the DOE will continue the conduct of the Philippine Energy Contracting Round (PECR) with a target of 18 service contracts for award from now to 2030. The service contracts will form part of the petroleum reserves estimated at 94.74 million barrels (MMB) of oil, 3.96 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of gas and 41.34 MMB of condensate.

In terms of indigenous coal, the agency is monitoring 48 exploration service contracts for declaration of additional coal reserves in commercial quantity to enable the conversion of these service contracts to production contracts. “With this, we estimated the in-situ coal reserves to reach 4,297.7 MMT [million metric tons] by 2030,” the DOE official said.

Despite achieving significant growth in the past, the downstream oil industry needs to sustain further investments to improve competition and achieve resiliency in the very volatile nature of oil prices in the international market. “With this, we are inviting foreign investors in oil refinery to provide a more stable and bigger oil-supply base for the country,” Capongcol said.

Moreover, there is an expected higher demand for biofuels with the continuing implementation of biofuels law.  “Biodiesel will increase from the current blend of 2 percent to 5 percent in the shor  term, i.e, by 2019, to reach 20 percent in the long-term period,” she said.

For bioethanol, the increase will start at 10 percent for the short term to reach 20 percent in the medium- to long-term period. Likewise, the DOE will promote a voluntary increase in bioethanol blend by 80 percent in the long term, depending on the availability of feedstock.

In terms of power development, based on the 2015 to 2030 Distribution Development Plans (DDPs) of 140 distribution utilities nationwide, Luzon grid will need additional capacities of about 5,000 megawatts (MW); the Visayas grid will need 1,300 MW; and Mindanao grid will require around 900 MW of new generation capacities.

In Mindanao, specifically, the agency is looking at new developments to make investments more attractive, such as putting in place an electricity market and, ultimately, making the interconnection with Luzon and the Visayas possible.

“We will, likewise, study further if there is a need for another round of installation targets for FiT [feed-in tariff] or can we now make RE market-based without prejudice to the need of the consumers of having affordable power rates,” Capongcol said.

Moreover, investments in natural-gas industry are also needed primarily to support the power industry, and later on, other possible uses. By 2021, the supply of Malampaya gas may no longer suffice for higher requirements of gas, thus, investments in exploring and developing potential areas are necessary.

“As mentioned by DOE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, one of the projects that the DOE will be undertaking is putting up an LNG [liquefied natural gas] receiving and distribution center, where initial discussions with World Bank, through the International Finance Corp. were made for the conduct of feasibility studies,” the DOE official said.