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Philippine groups concerned over 'lagging' RE policy amid climate talks

ASEAN nations underperforming in clean energy shift

By Center for Energy, Ecology and Development
December 2, 2018

QUEZON CITY – Civil society organizations show concern over the underperforming status of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations in keeping up with the global shift to renewable energy.

With the opening of Conference of Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Katowice, the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) expressed disappointment over the lack of significant policy support from the part of the government to do its fair share in shifting from carbon-intensive coal energy to more renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

"While there has been a global shift towards renewables this year, the Philippines and other ASEAN countries do not seem to be onboard, considering their energy policies and projections," said Gerry Arances, CEED Executive Director. "If we are to abide by the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement, global emissions must reach their highest peak in 2020, but the recent UN Environment report indicates that this may not be possible by 2030," he noted.

Arances cited the International Energy Agency (IEA) report that in 2017, 70% of global energy demand was met by oil and gas which corresponds to the 1.2% increase in emissions in the same year. "It is alarming that two years after the Paris Accord is when we reached a record high in global emissions. This means that developing countries like the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia can no longer use development to opt out of doing their fair share in cutting emissions," he emphasized.

"With 53% of its energy needs sourced from coal, it is unfortunate that the Philippines – the third most vulnerable country when it comes to climate disasters – is not doing enough to cut carbon emissions," Arances continued. "This is ten years after we passed the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, which aimed to increase the share of renewables in our country and decrease our dependence on imported coal," he added. "An evidence of this lagging commitment is the implementing rules of the Renewable Portfolio Standards which have only been released this year: a decade after we enacted the RE Law," Arances noted.

Meanwhile, the Mindanao Working Group for Clean, Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE), raised concerns over the pending power supply agreements (PSAs) between distribution utilities and generation companies which lock in the power grids in the Philippines to relying on coal for at least two decades more.

"Not only will this go against the drive to increase renewable energy in our power mix, it will also ensure that we keep paying to operate coal-fired power plants way after they have become cheaper than renewable energy sources," said Mr. Clint Pacana, co-convenor for the Mindanao Working Group. "Such agreements only to serve to secure the return of investments for coal companies, at the expense of fair competition among market players and consumers," Pacana added.

Pacana cited the experience of Mindanao, where "prices shot up after an influx of coal projects." "Under the guise of responding to growing power demand, several coal projects were constructed without proper planning and consideration, which resulted in a number of these projects to become stranded," he added. "From 2014 to 2016 alone, stranded costs were conservatively equivalent to P3 billion (US$60 million), all to be shouldered by Mindanao consumers," concluded Pacana.

This was echoed by the consumer group Kampanya para sa Malinis at Murang Kuryente (KMMK), which expressed concern over Meralco and seven generation companies which would "tie the Philippines to 3.5 GW of dirty, costly energy for at least twenty years. "Significant changes must be introduced to the energy sector if we are to keep our energy policies consistent with our climate commitments and the people's energy needs," stressed Atty. Anton Paredes of KMMK. "As evidenced by other countries who have shifted to more renewables, falling prices alone cannot displace coal. Support policies and the will to implement them figure in abandoning dirty and costly energy," he concluded.

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