Locals, green energy advocates slam ammonia co-firing plans for Quezon coal plant

Green energy advocates and local stakeholders raised alarm over proposals to introduce ammonia co-fired generation at a coal plant in Quezon province, as the plan would only lead to prolonging and exacerbating woes on high electricity costs and pollution from the facility.

Quezon Power Philippines (QPL), a subsidiary of Thailand-based EGCO Group, and South Korean firm Doosan Enerbility Co. signed a memorandum of understanding to study ammonia co-firing at the 460 MW coal-fired power plant of QPL in Mauban, allegedly as a way to mitigate carbon emissions.

“Quezon Power will use the integration of ammonia as another means to brand its coal operation as clean, but we know that this could not be farther from the truth. This plan would only prolong the life of an already polluting facility, while bringing a whole new set of risks to the health and environment of our people,” said Fr. Warren Puno of local advocacy group Quezon for Environment (QUEEN) and Director of the Ministry of Ecology of the Diocese of Lucena.

Ammonia is increasingly being promoted by proponents in the region as a way of lowering the carbon footprint of combustion in coal power generation facilities. Concerns abound, however, in the intensive use of fossil fuels for the production and processing of ammonia and the emission of a considerable amount of several greenhouse gasses, and the expected increase that co-firing will add to power generation costs.

“Quezon Power is already the most expensive power provider contracted by Meralco. Retrofitting the plant to accommodate co-firing, ammonia fuel production, transport and other required processes will only add more costs and promote the continued use of coal to sell power that consumers simply can no longer afford,” said Gerry Arances, Convenor of P4P.

Quezon Power supplies 10% of the total power requirements of the country’s biggest distribution utility, with an average cost of Php 12.11/kWh in the last half year – a cost that is higher than even the spot market’s Php 10.27/kWh. With volatile costs of coal in the global market, Quezon Power charged Meralco as high as Php 63.98/kWh in April 2022. 

“The only study that coal companies should be doing amid high fuel costs and catastrophic climate change today is how a well-managed and immediate decommissioning of their facilities can be done. We are better off accelerating the deployment of genuinely sustainable and affordable renewables than dipping our toes in even more harmful and costly pursuits like ammonia co-firing,” added Aryanne De Ocampo, Advocacy Officer of think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development.