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PHL coal-fired power capacity seen increasing by 135% despite moratorium on new projects

POWER generating capacity from coal-fired plants is expected to rise 135% after all plants currently being built become operational, after a moratorium on new builds was declared last month, Clean Air Asia (CAA) said in a report.

The estimate follows Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi’s freeze on new coal-fired projects announced in October.

“The Philippines’ Department of Energy (DoE) announced… that a moratorium on coal will be implemented, but this does not cover planned CFPs (coal-fired power plants), which will result in a 135% increase in coal capacity once all are operational,” CAA, a non-government organization (NGO), said.

CAA also cited the country’s “lenient” regulation of emissions since the Clean Air Act became effective in 2000.

“The NOx (nitrogen oxide) emission standards even for ‘new’ CFPs (those operating after 2000) in the Philippines are still 10 times more lenient than those of India and five times more lenient than those of Indonesia,” the CAA said. It found that the Philippines had the “most lenient” sulfur dioxide emission standards.

“A review of Philippine industry emission standards has been underway since 2018, and is ongoing; however, no timeline for implementation has been discussed,” it said.

According to the NGO, the Philippines currently does not require a thorough health impact assessment (HIA) before approving a coal-fired power plant. “The HIA must be a priority and must be done not only in the application process, but throughout the lifetime of the CFP facility. In discussions about the ‘costs’ of CFP use, the externality costs of the health burden should always be prioritized and quantified as part of the HIA,” CAA said.

The Philippines was one of the CAA report’s five focus countries. Other countries included in the analysis are Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Citing official government data compiled by CAA and the Global Coal Plant Tracker, South and Southeast Asia make up 31% of all planned expansion in coal-fired capacity — with the five focus countries making up almost half of this total.

In a separate statement, the CAA recommended that the Philippines adopt stringent emission standards; improve the transparency of documents and data on CFPs; and enforce policy more diligently.

The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) has estimated that around 10 gigawatts of greenfield coal plants will be affected by the DoE’s coal moratorium.

“The impact of the coal moratorium will fall most heavily on the Luzon grid and the project development aspirations of San Miguel and Meralco,” the IEEFA said. — Angelica Y. Yang

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