Gov’t urged to develop timeline to retire coal-fired power plants

Gov’t urged to develop timeline to retire coal-fired power plants

THE GOVERNMENT needs to lay down a timeline for decommissioning or repurposing coal-fired power plants, analysts said.

“In a just energy transition, this means that there should be a plan set out by the Department of Energy (DoE). What will be the timeline for the phaseout or transition of coal to renewable energy?” Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Khevin Yu said by telephone.

“Although it’s an effort in the part of DoE to reach out to power companies, they should have a better role in laying down how it should look like because it seems that they’re basically passing it on to the generating sector… but they can do more,” Mr. Yu said.

The DoE issued a statement last week encouraging a voluntary early and orderly decommissioning or repurposing of existing coal-fired power plants in line with the Philippines’ energy transition program.

This should be done while keeping supply stable and addressing the climate emergency by ramping up renewable energy to a 50% share by 2040, it said.

“The DoE should review and upscale the updates on renewable energy and eventually ’yung pagbawas nang malaki (the large reduction) and eventually phaseout of coal in the Philippines,” Mr. Yu said.

Angelika Marie C. David, manager for energy policy of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, welcomed the initiative of the DoE as it would likely add to the government’s climate action efforts and ramp up the integration of renewables in the energy mix.

“We trust that the DoE will treat the shift to renewable energy as their top priority in order to achieve affordable, reliable, and secure indigenous energy for all Filipinos,” Ms. David said in an e-mail.

For generation companies, this should be good news, according to China Bank Capital Corp. Managing Director Juan Paolo E. Colet, as this signals that “the DoE will not impose a mandatory phaseout of coal-fired power plants.”

“This assures conventional power companies that they can continue serving the country’s electricity needs while having the leeway to explore investments in renewable energy,” Mr. Colet said in a Viber message.

However, BDO Capital & Investment Corp. President Eduardo V. Francisco said that replacing coal-fired plants would need baseload power that would work “100% of the time.”

“Even if it says they want to transition but they have no incentives, they have no framework, it does not mean anything to me or to the gencos (generation companies),” Mr. Francisco said in a phone call.

“First of all, the big banks don’t lend to coal anymore. There’s no new coal being developed,” he added.

In 2020, the government declared a moratorium on greenfield coal-fired plants, signaling a shift to a more flexible power mix.

There are 62 coal-fired plants  connected to the grid as of August, with total installed capacity of 12,472.6 megawatts, according to the data from the DoE. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera