MANILA - The Philippines will likely be further dependent on coal in the next several years despite facing serious threats of climate change, according to environmental group Greenpeace Philippines.
“Right now, our coal development has increased every year by almost 12 percent since 2015,” Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Khevin Yu said in a press conference Friday.
Using data provided by the Department of Energy, Yu pointed out that coal already represents 52 percent of the country’s energy mix, followed by natural gas at 21.38 percent.
On the other hand, renewable energy sources such as geothermal, solar, wind, and hydro are at a combined 22.27 percent share.
Yu said if all proposed coal-fired power plants are approved in the next 5 years, coal will represent at least three-fourths of the country’s energy mix.
Yu said the findings are worrisome as most of the companies are set to increase their coal power generation, which is among the top sources of greenhouse gas emissions.
“It has effects on our environment and communities,” he said.
The Philippines has been recognized as among the top climate-vulnerable countries, especially in terms of sea level rise and more intense typhoons.
Yu said the planned coal expansion would go against global efforts to limit carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Global think tank Climate Analytics previously said the Philippines will likely phaseout coal in 2062, which is 2 decades later than the target for the region.
Yu said they decided to release a report dubbed "Dirty Business" to make sense of data released by the government.
“It is important to know where we’re at, where we’re going and what the future plans are,” he said.
The 32-page report details the top energy companies of the country, their energy portfolios and their planned expansion.
Gerry Arances of the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED) said companies should realize that the production of coal will continue to become costly, reaching P7 per kilowatt hour in some areas in the country.
“Even now, new renewables are already cheaper. There will come a time when prices will be even lower,” he said, explaining that renewable energy like solar and wind does not need any fuel input.
Engr. Rei Panaligan of the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology (CREST) also said the Philippines is already in the “era of cheap renewable energy” with more and more businesses and individuals investing in solar rooftops.
“This could be a wake up call for these companies to stop investing in more coal projects,” he said.
Arances said what is now alarming is that the Philippines - despite claiming it is not a major emitter of carbon - is among the top 10 countries expanding their coal power production.
Of the 5 top energy companies cited in the report, Greenpeace said 4 are set to increase their coal portfolio, which will more than double the country’s current coal capacity.
Yu and Arances questioned this as they said coal is no longer sustainable.
“It’s imported. Almost 99 percent of our coal comes from other countries,” Yu said. “So in terms of energy security, coal won’t provide us with security for our electricity.”
Yu also dismissed claims that the new coal plants that will be constructed are “cleaner.”
“This is a misinformation because even the latest technology or what they call ultra super critical (power plants) are dirtier than other fuels, compared to natural gas,” he said.
He called on the companies to rethink their investments, especially as coal is projected to result in losses because of stranded assets as other sources of energy become cheaper in the long run.
“It’s not just an issue of energy production but the safety of Filipinos,” he said.
In a text statement, Meralco, which was cited as having among the most number of planned coal power facilities, said it has “a duty to provide reliable supply in the least cost manner.”
“At the moment, coal power plants can provide this while RE (renewable energy) plants still continue to depend on subsidies from consumers and government mandates like the Renewable Portfolio Standards,” said Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga. He also said that as of now, they only have one facility powered by coal.
Zaldarriaga said their main goal is to “get the best price for [their] consumers.”
But Greenpeace said Meralco and its Meralco Powergen Corporation has proposed energy projects with other companies, totaling 5,470 megawatts of installed capacity.
Yu said it’s not yet too late for the Philippines to shift towards its committed low carbon pathway.
“With all of these, we still think we still have space, we still have time to change the direction ng energy development. But both the government and energy companies need to make drastic change in their plans right now,” he said.