Time to review energy-mix policy as R.E. share drops

by Jonathan L. Mayuga – April 20, 2016 

from Business Mirror

IT has been more than six years since Republic Act (RA) 9513 was signed into law on December 16, 2008, while its implementing rules and regulation was put issued the following year. However, instead of increasing, the share of renewable energy (RE) in the country’s energy mix actually went down by 5 percent, environmental groups said.

Unless the government reviews and reverses its procoal policy, they said in the next six years, the share of RE will further go down by another 5 percent, giving up its share to coal, which had seen drastic rise since 1990.

Ironically, RA 9513, or the RE law, was meant to promote renewable sources of energy to increase their share in the country’s energy mix.

So while it is long overdue, they said the statement issued by the Climate Change Commission (CCC), a body created by virtue of the RE law, for the need to review the current energy policy to step away from “dirty” coal is a welcome development.  CCC was created with the signing of the RE law.

They were reacting to a statement issued by the CCC on Monday, stating the government should review its energy policy to step away from the use of coal and tap more renewable resources to meet the country’s power-supply requirements.

The statement quoted Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman, vice chairman of the CCC, and was released days before the signing of the Paris climate agreement in New York.

“Updating our road map to massively favor clean sources will allow the Philippines to be at the forefront of this aggressive and massive trend of investment and transition from fossil to RE. This allows the Philippines to not only contribute to global efforts to combat climate change but reduce growing economic and financial risks associated with carbon-intensive energy sources such as coal,” de Guzman said.

Gerry Arances, a board member of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and convenor of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development, said under the Aquino administration, coal’s share in the country’s energy mix grew tremendously.

“With all the approved power projects in the pipeline right now, around 70 percent of those that will go online in 2019 will be from coal, which would also means that by 2021 the overall dependence to coal will be at 50 percent, as compared to 39 percent in 2016,” said Arances, also the international coordinator of the International Coal Network.

Arances added that this means that RE input will be 29 percent in 2016 and 24 by 2021.

“What is problematic here is that when we started the Renewable Energy law, the RE component in the overall power mix is at 34 percent, so we are already down 5 percent in the power mix since 2009. Kung kelan nagkaroon ng RE law ’saka naman lumiit ang contribution ng RE sa power mix,” he lamented.

According to Arances, it is about time that the CCC has shown courage to declare such policy review.

He said it is imperative that presidential candidates should reveal their position on the issue of the environment and how they intend to address the growing concern against coal dominating the country’s energy mix.

He said coal should be taxed heavily more than any other because of its impact to the environment, health and the people.

Clemente Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, said ever since the RE law was passed, their network of environmental group and non-governmental organizations have been questioning the conflict between the law and the existing RE policy, which was eventually pursued by the Aquino administration.

“Even before the passage of the Climate Change Act, we have pointed out in the draft the conflicts,” he said.

While the RE Act promotes RE, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act allows private corporations to determine what kind of power plant they intend to put up.  “Since coal is cheap and easy to put up, they go for coal-fired power plant,” he said.

According to Bautista, the promotion of coal-fired power plants in the Philippines contradicts its own international commitment to reduce carbon emission by 70 percent under its Intended National Determined Contribution submission on October 31, 2015, prior to the forging of the Paris Agreement in Paris, France, in December 2016.