Power firms hit new coal directive

by Alena Mae S. Flores – July 22, 2016 at 11:45 pm 

from Manila Standard Today

Power companies have expressed concern over the recent directive of the Environment Department requiring clearance from the Climate Change Commission and the office of Senator Loren Legarda when coal plants apply for an environmental compliance certificate.

The order dated June 22 required ECC applicants to secure a clearance from the CCC and Legarda’s office prior to the processing and approval of ECCs for coal-fired power plants.

Quezon Power Philippines, Aboitiz Power Corp., Meralco PowerGen Corp., Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp. confirmed the existence of the memorandum, which adds another layer to the more than 100 permits needed to build coal-fired power plants.

The directive came from the office of the undersecretary for legal services and attached agencies signed by Analiza Rebuelta-Teh and submitted to the office of the assistant secretary for environment.

The memorandum pertains to the letter dated May 2 of Legarda “requesting to be informed of the reason for the continued issuance of ECCs to coal-fired power plants despite the department’s request to the President to defer the endorsement of coal-fired power plants in view of the global direction on climate change mitigation efforts.”

The order directed the Environmental Management Bureau to require the application for ECC for operations of coal-fired power plants to get a clearance from the CCC and Legarda’s office prior to processing and approval of their application.

The memorandum was issued prior to the appointment of Environment Secretary Gina Lopez, a known anti-mining and anti-coal advocate.

“We wonder if the current administration will not change this… Seems a little off that certain technologies are being singled out,” Aboitiz Power president Antonio Moraza said.

Quezon Power managing director Frank Thiel said coal plants were required to obtain as many as 165 permits from pre-development to construction stage, which posed delay in construction.

“On average, take four to seven years from the time you come up with a concept to the time you build,” Thiel said.

GNPower chief operating officer Ariel Punzalan said the permitting process had already been streamlined through the years but the new requirement would add another layer.

Power generators are building thousands of megawatts of new coal-fired power plants across the country’s three power grids because they are cheaper to construct and offer lower cost of power to consumers.