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.”