The next administration should convert coal-fired power plants into natural gas facilities as part of the country’s thrust towards a low-carbon scenario, the chief energy regulator said Tuesday.
Energy Regulatory Commission chairperson Agnes Devanadera cited roposals to repurpose existing coal plants into natural gas facilities in other countries.
“Maybe the DOE [Department of Energy], together with existing coal plant owners come up with a policy and possible cost projections for such conversion,” Devanadera said.
About 41 percent of the Philippines’ installed power generation capacity comes from coal.
Devanadera said the DOE already issued a moratorium on the acceptance of new coal projects as the country moves towards an RE-dominated supply mix.
“Note, however, that there are still coal investments that are underway and possibly at construction stage already at this point. For those coal projects whose actual construction has not yet started, maybe we can ask the proponent to study the possible conversion of their project to natural gas project,” she said.
Devanadera said there is a need to come out with a way forward for coal, “to avoid stranded assets, to maximize investments and lastly to avoid disincentivizing old investors who put up coal plants when the country needed them the most.”
“We should repurpose, otherwise, we will be having stranded assets and that’s not good for investors, investment policy and consumers because we require that they be maintained well,” she said.
Energy stakeholders said while the push for RE continued to gain momentum, coal still has an important role to play in the local energy sector.
“We believe that coal will still play a very critical role in the energy transition of a developing country like the Philippines. Currently, it still remains to be the most reliable yet cost-efficient source of energy,” Aboitiz Power Corp. president Emmanuel Rubio said in February.
“As we said, we will see a lot of demand as the country recovers from the past two years and coal will definitely be an integral part of this recovery. Having said that, we strongly believe that the shift to clean and renewable energy to drive decarbonization has to be in step with our economic growth, and more importantly, considering the impact of the pandemic, economic recovery,” he said.
Semirara Mining and Power Corp. chairman Isidro Consunji said coal could help the country through the transition from the pandemic.
“We need stable, affordable electricity and the reality is, our most viable option is still coal,” he said.
Alsons Consolidated Resources executive vice president and chief operating officer Tirso Santillan said coal would remain a major source of energy, being a cheap and dependable source, although RE would continue to grow.
“Solar has grown dramatically cheaper with the advancement of technology, but it is still not a 24/7 energy source. Battery technology to complement solar still has some ways to go. Run-of-river facilities are small in capacity, thus will take time to build up critical mass,” he said.
Salvador Antonio Jr. Castro, president and chief executive of CleanTech Global Renewables Inc., agreed that coal would still have its role to play in the short and medium terms but would likely be replaced by LNG.