Philippines seen to lead Southeast Asia in carbon emissions in 10 years

Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) - September 10, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is expected to lead the growth of carbon emissions in Southeast Asia in the next decade as coal remains to be its largest and least cost option of power.

However, the entry of more solar and gas-fired plants 10 years after would drive the country to have the second cleanest grid in the region by 2050, according to the latest report of BloombergNEF (BNEF).

Based on the latest New Energy Outlook 2019 (NEO) by BNEF, the Philippines would continue to see a steady increase in coal power plant development until 2023.

Power generated from coal plants would peak in 2034 and remain as the largest single source of electricity until 2041.

“While new renewables beat coal on a new-build basis, existing coal is relatively new and cheap to run. Without policy intervention, therefore, it continues to run at high utilization, with an average capacity factor of 76 percent over the outlook,” BNEF Southeast Asia energy analyst Caroline Chua said.

The BNEF report also showed coal would remain the country’s largest source of power sector emissions.

“This is due to increasing utilization of the existing coal fleet that remains the cheapest to operate,” Chua said.

The report also indicated that the Philippines would fall short of its renewable energy target set under the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) amid the continued growth in coal-fired power capacity.

“The country may also miss its stated 2030 target of 35 percent renewable electricity generation set under the RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standards),” Chua said.

Under the National Renewable Energy Program (NREP), the Department of Energy (DOE) is targeting to triple the existing renewable capacity of 5,438 MW in 2010 to 15,304 MW by 2030.

But almost a decade after, the country has only increased its RE capacity to over 7,000 MW.

However, the NEO report said the Philippines would likely see a significant change in generation mix to having more renewables and gas plants by 2050.

This as more renewable energy sources – particularly solar and wind – penetrate the generation mix deeper after 2035. 

The BNEF report projected utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) projects would supply 31 percent of electricity in 2050, up from just one percent in 2018, while wind and hydro provide five percent each.

“By 2050, wind and solar provide 46 percent of total electricity with other renewables providing a further 11 percent. We expect only 43 percent of the country’s electricity production to result from burning fossil fuels by 2050, down from 78 percent today,” Chua said.

Moreover, gas plant developments are seen to gain ground after 2030, leading the country to have four times more gas-fired capacity by 2050 in the system than today.

“New plants are built to provide dispatchability and flexibility in the system and complement the growth of variable renewables,” Chua said.

But despite changes in the generation mix, the country would still see power sector emissions peak in 2036 at 104 metric tons (MT), where it would fall two percent annually but start rising again in 2045, the NEO report showed.

By 2050, the country’s power sector emissions would be 57 percent higher than today.

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