First super-critical coal power plant almost completed in the Philippines

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The Philippines is about to add another 455MW coal-fired power station to its energy mix, pushing energy access to the remaining 2 million Filipinos that are currently left in the dark.

The San Buenaventura Power Plant in Mauban, Quezon, will be using the newest form of technology to help drive-down carbon emissions from coal power stations, the first of its kind in the Philippines. The 455MW plant has been fitted with supercritical technology, which helps to improve the efficiency of the power plant and reduce its overall carbon emissions.

The project is due to be completed in the next couple of months with an expected start date of producing electricity in early 2019.

As it stands, the World Bank reports that the Philippines currently enjoys an access to energy rate of 91%, meaning that there are still over 2.36 million households without any form of power, preventing businesses from growing, schools from teaching and Filipinos from being safe at night.

In spite of this, it is difficult to power the Philippines as they have over 7,600 islands, preventing on-grid power from reaching the most remote areas. However, the government has ensured that with the reducing costs of renewable energy, it will place a bigger emphasis on setting up off-grid networks for the harder to reach islands, enabling all of its citizens to receive the power they are entitled to.

In 2016, the Duterte government set out a national roadmap from 2016 to 2040 as a plan to reach universal energy access and to develop a sustainable energy system within the Philippines. As it stands, the energy mix of the country accounts for: coal (30%), hydro (20%), geothermal (10%), diesel (20%), natural gas (15%), and wind/solar (5%).

The government has included in its plan an ambition to increase its energy capacity by 19,000MW by 2040.

The Philippines is on a path to create a secure energy mix, but in order to reach the most remote islands, more emphasis will need to be placed on mini-grids supported by renewable technology, but backed up by a strong base load power from the country’s oil, gas and coal power plants.

The introduction of their new supercritical coal power plant next year will help to achieve their energy targets, and to provide electricity to the 2.3 million households currently left in the dark. But how will the government secure the extra 19,000MW needed to power its future?

Confirmed: Coal to remain central to poverty reduction in Philippines

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New research shows that coal will remain the primary energy source used to develop the Philippines for the next ten years.

A report by Fitch Group’s BMI Research found that “growth in the Philippines power infrastructure sector over the next 10 years will be driven by investment in coal-fired generating capacity, as companies and the government build a slew of new power plants to support growing electricity demand.”

Based on current projects in the pipeline, the research found that the Philippines power sector will grow by 10% a year up till 2026, with the vast majority of that growth supplied by coal.

Like several other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines has adopted a pragmatic approach to energy policy, with Energy Minster Alfonso Cusi stating that “while all countries have an obligation to combat climate change, we also have a particular responsibility to our people.”

Mr Cusi believes that developing countries should not be “constrained by rigid or arbitrary targets in sourcing our energy”, and has stressed that renewables “remain unaffordable in comparison to conventional energy sources.”

“This may not be an issue for consumers in wealthy countries, but poses a struggle for those in developing nations,” Mr Cusi said.

This Filipino economist had the perfect response to Western environmentalists who say the Philippines shouldn’t use coal

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Many developing countries are relying on coal to bring electricity to their energy-deprived populations. This is because coal is cheap, easy to transport (unlike gas which requires a sophisticated pipeline infrastructure), and can unlike renewables is not dependent on the weather.

Yet they often come in for criticism from Western NGOs, who object to coal on health as well as environmental grounds. In a recent column, Filipino economist Bienvenido Opias, had a response to these critics:

“What is bad for the people’s health and livelihoods are more candles and noisy gensets running on diesel when there are frequent brownouts coming from intermittent, unreliable renewables like solar and wind. Candles are among the major causes of fires in houses and communities.

What is bad for people’s health and security are dark streets at night that contribute to more road accidents, more street robberies, abduction and rapes, murders and other crimes […] Expensive and unstable electricity can kill people today, not 100 years from now.”

Opias concludes:

“Consumer groups and NGOs should bat for cheaper, stable electricity. If they fight for something else like intermittent and expensive renewables, or more expensive gas plants, then they abdicate their role as representatives of consumer interests.”