By Alena Mae S. Flores
Energy companies, environmental groups and consumers on Wednesday welcomed the Department of Energy’s declaration of a moratorium on endorsements for greenfield or new coal power plants.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi issued the moratorium advisory in the wake of the agency’s most recent assessment that called for a shift to a more flexible power supply mix.
San Miguel Corp. president Ramon Ang said the company would comply with the moratorium but did not give further details, while Semirara Mining and Power Corp. chairman Isidro Consunji said the moratorium would not affect their coal projects with permits.
“[It is] hard to conclude long-term effect to electricity prices at the moment, but will probably go up,” Consunji said.
Aboitiz Power Corp. also expressed support to the DOE’s efforts to make the Philippine energy system more flexible, resilient and sustainable.
“Aboitiz Power’s growth strategy for the next 10 years remains the same, which is to significantly grow our renewables portfolio, Cleanergy. We have been a pioneer of renewable energy in the country. Our diversification into thermal technologies was primarily driven by the country’s need for a reliable, accessible and affordable power supply,” Aboitiz Power Corp. president Emmanuel Rubio said.
Rubio said having the right balance of various energy sources was key to addressing the energy dilemma of energy security, equity and environmental sustainability. He said the balanced strategy was at the core of Aboitiz Power and would continue to fuel the company’s growth in the next 10 years and beyond.
“We remain committed to achieving our goal of a more balanced energy mix or an almost 50:50 Cleanergy and thermal capacities by 2030,” Rubio said.
AC Energy Inc. president and chief executive Eric Francia said DOE’s move “is a bold and progressive policy.”
“Quite commendable as it demonstrates our government’s commitment to energy security and sustainability. AC Energy is fully supportive of Secretary [Alfonso] Cusi’s direction, and we will continue to scale up our renewable energy investments in the country,” Francia said.
Meralco PowerGen Corp. said the moratorium would not affect its power projects as the company was implementing high-efficiency, low-emission technologies.
”If you are referring to Atimonan, it already has DOE approval as a committed coal project and also a certified energy project of national significance from DOE. In addition, it already has DENR ECC approval and NGCP connection agreement. So the moratorium will not affect our Atimonan project. Also we are implementing only HELE technology on our coal projects,” Meralco PowerGen president Rogelio Singson said.
Meralco PowerGen is developing the 1,200-megawatt ultra-supercritical coal plant in Atimonan, Quezon.
Power for People Coalition welcomed the moratorium on DOE endorsements for greenfield coal power plants but raised reservations on how it would affect power rates as the country seeks to recover from the pandemic.
“The long-term benefits of coal would be complemented by decisive action on the part of the government to also address the short-term effects of the bill shock which happened during the enhanced community quarantine period. Only with concrete action on both the short-term and long-term can the DOE begin to truly say it is “prosumer,” P4P said in a statement.
The Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development also lauded the moratorium. “This long overdue pronouncement would block off at least 10.7 gigawatts of coal in the pipeline and can be the gateway for a future where all Filipinos are given access to clean and affordable energy,” it said.
The CEED also called for a phase-out plan for the currently installed 9.8 gigawatts of coal in the country.
Environmental group Greenpeace said to ensure the country’s rapid transition to renewable energy, “the DOE must take this further by enacting a permanent moratorium that includes not just coal but also gas projects in the pipeline, and jumpstart a phase out plan for existing coal and other fossil fuel facilities.”
Greenpeace also expressed dismay on the decision to allow 100 percent foreign ownership of geothermal projects.
“Geothermal projects must be approached with extreme caution due to their impacts on communities and ecosystems. Data from a recent Greenpeace report shows that the Philippines can easily achieve 50 percent RE power generation by 2030 solely through solar and wind capacity,” it said.