Coal still critical in energy mix – DOE
(The Philippine Star) - March 31, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As far as the Philippines is concerned, coal-fired power plants remain a critical part of the country’s power industry to provide sufficient and reliable electricity supply, the Department of Energy (DOE) chief said yesterday.

However, the country is working on other means to be able to have sufficient power supply by harnessing indigenous renewable energy and through the development of natural gas as an alternative fuel, the DOE head said.

“We need power and we have to put up power, to make sure there is sufficient, reliable, accessible power because that is the mandate of the DOE,” Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada told reporters in a briefing.

“Notwithstanding, we are working for a cleaner air and we’re working towards a target that by 2030, we can achieve 70 percent [reduction] in emissions from the business as usual scenario. But it’s not only power, it will also cover transportation, agriculture and other sectors,” she said.

The Energy chief’s statement came after former US vice president and environmental activist Al Gore visited the country and urged to put a stop on coal plants to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change.

To do the power industry’s part in meeting the 70 percent reduction in emissions, Monsada said the DOE is working on imposing stricter standards for coal plant operators, which involve improved technologies and coal handling facilities.

She said coal plants have already aired their commitments to comply with the new standards.

“We cannot stop coal plants now... but we are implementing stricter standards. The technology and efficiency should be an answer. We’re not only concerned about GHG (greenhouse gas) and CO2 emissions, we’re looking at particulate emissions so we will impose stricter standards on storage handling and distribution of coal,” Monsada said.

The agency is also working with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to reflect the true cost of running a coal-fired power plant, which is currently the cheapest source of power.

“Other countries are adding the costs of coal to due externalities. The DOE, together with ERC, looking at how to consider [external] costs,” she said.

Monsada also noted the DOE is aspiring to have a balanced energy mix in power supply, so as not be be overly dependent on a single power source.

Under the DOE’s current fuel mix policy, the country should source 30 percent of its energy requirements from coal, 30 percent from renewable energy and another 30 percent from natural gas. The remaining 10 percent will come from oil-based power plants.

“As the demand increases, we have to increase the renewables. Supposedly, the increase in demand will not be addressed by coal. We will also have a 30 percent bridging fuel which is natural gas. For that, we have to develop infrastructure,” Monsada said.

“What we’re doing is we’re looking at how to prepare the market to meet the energy policy mix,” she said.

For renewables, the DOE highlighted the increased use of RE in the country, particularly with the implementation of incentives under the feed-in-tariff (FIT) program.

Under the FIT system, qualified developers of emerging RE sources are offered on a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour (kwh) of their exported electricity to the distribution or transmission network.

The DOE said FIT subscriptions for RE resources has significantly increased to 806.82 MW from 646.65 MW installations since the start of 2016.

To-date, FIT subscriptions under biomass is 11 power plants with a total capacity of 94.25 MW; hydro has four accounting for 26.60 MW; wind has six accounting for 393.90 MW.

As of March 15, the DOE has issued Certificate of Endorsement for FIT Eligibility (COE-FIT) to 11 solar power plants accounting for 292.07 megawatts (MW) to the ERC.

The agency said more solar power projects may be issued COE-FIT at the completion of the on-going validation and assessment of the submissions received by the DOE in relation to the 15 March 2016 deadline for the expanded FIT for solar.

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