By Ellson Quismorio
Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi doesn’t like the idea of implementing a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants despite the country’s commitment to the United Nations (UN) to significantly slash its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030.
Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez floated this moratorium or suspension on new coal-fired plants during the DOE’s budget deliberation Tuesday before the House Appropriations Committee. On hand were Energy officials led by Cusi.
“The Philippines intends to undertake greenhouse gas carbon emission reduction of about 70 percent by 2030 relative to the business as usual scenario,” said Rodriguez, a returning solon in the 18th Congress.
“May we know whether the Secretary agrees that we should, therefore, in order to comply with our Intended National[ly Determined] Contribution to the UN, we should therefore already have a moratorium on coal plants?” he asked.
Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) is a term used under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for reductions in GHG emissions that all countries that signed the UNFCCC were asked to publish at the 2013 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Warsaw, Poland, on November 2013.
The way GHGs traps heat close to the surface of the earth facilitates Climate Change, which has led to devastating environmental effects around the world.
“Coal still serves a purpose for our baseload,” Cusi reckoned, adding, “Saying that we should have a moratorium on any technology must be a disservice to our energy security.”
During his presentation to the Appropriations panel, DOE Undersecretary Jesus Posadas noted that coal represents 52.1 percent of the country’s power generation mix in 2018, up from 49.6 in 2017.
This means that the Philippines is heavily dependent on coal, which pro-environment warriors have dubbed a “dirty” power source.
“Are you, therefore, saying that it’s the policy of the DOE to approve all applications for additional coal plants?” Rodriguez said in his follow-up, noting that it would violate the country’s commitment to the UN.
“The contribution of carbon emissions is not only from coal plants. It’s also from the transportation sector,” the DOE chief replied, avoiding a straight answer.
When pressed further by the Mindanaoan lawmaker, Cusi said on the matter of additional coal-fired plants: “That will all depend on the need of the country. If we need it, I will [approve applications]. If it’s not needed, I won’t.”
Bayan Muna Party-List Rep. Eufemia Cullamat said that there are currently 16 coal-fired power plants in the Philippines, with two more undergoing construction. The militant solon claimed that some of the plants are located near bodies of water and that the ensuing pollution is affecting the livelihood of fishermen.
Earlier in the hearing, Cusi said the DOE has adopted a technology-neutral policy.
“But I’d like to also clarify…that the Philippines is number one in environmental sustainability. We beat all the countries. Out of 120 countries, we are number one,” he said, referring to a study carried out by London-based World Energy Council.
“Where we are poor is in energy security and energy accessibility. Those are areas that we need to improve [on],” said Cusi.
It was also learned from the Department’s budget presentation that the country’s renewable energy (RE)-based generation fell percentage-wise, from 24.7 percent in 2017 (or 23,189 gigawatt-hours [GWh] out of the total generation of 94,370 GWh) to 23.5 percent in 2018 (23,326 GWh out of 99,765 GWh).
“I really wish that it should be increasing because that’s precisely what the law (Renewable Energy Act of 2008) likes to see,” Rodriguez commented.