Report: Switching On Transformative Energy

Fossil fuels hinder PH’s renewable energy potential from helping solve power, sustainability, and COVID recovery woes – including over 7 GW of coal still left hanging by DOE moratorium

The worsening climate crisis, lingering pandemic, and increasingly unreliable and inequitable energy systems provide the Philippines an unparalleled opportunity to rethink its energy sector, but sustained reliance on fossil fuels would keep the country from reaping the full benefits of its readily available renewable energy sources, the Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) said Thursday.

This status was presented in a webinar and launch of the report ‘Switching On Transformative Energy’ in which CEED provides a comprehensive view of the Philippines’ power and energy landscape and recommendations to advance sustainable energy from renewables.

“Energy can be transformative – that is, able to change lives and society for the better. To be called as such, it has to be sustainable, empowering to Filipinos, and fueling a people-centered development. The fossil fuel-based energy we depend on today, which produces nothing more than pollution, climate change, and high electricity bills, is far from this. That is why the insistence of the Department of Energy (DOE) and many of our other government bodies on continuing our fossil fuel use, including allowing a significant share of the coal pipeline to push through despite supposedly implementing a coal moratorium and even expanding fossil gas use in the next two decades, is contrary to the best interest of the people,” explained Avril De Torres, Research, Policy, and Law Program Head of CEED.

The report reveals that while the DOE shelved about 3 GW and delisted 1.2 GW of coal since announcing the coal moratorium in October 2020, proponents of 10 projects at 7.578 GW remain free to work towards securing necessary permits and processes to eventually reach the implementation stage. Meanwhile, 6 projects at 3 GW have been allowed to continue. On top of these, the Philippines is also now pursuing another fossil fuel, fossil gas, with massive expansion plans recorded to be ranging from 7.1-17.5 GW.

“The DOE and other energy authorities can choose to allow Filipinos to suffer from dirty and costly power, or assist them in the path towards a more sustainable future. With this report, we remind them that their duty is the latter,” added De Torres.

The report was launched in a webinar held just days before the last State of the Nation Address of President Duterte, and was joined by an esteemed panel of civil society leaders including Atty. Gia Ibay of WWF Philippines, Leody De Guzman of the Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), and Rene Ofreneo of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), as well as energy policymakers who conceded that current power and energy systems are no longer benefitting Filipinos, especially in the context of the spate of outages and low power supply that triggered rate hikes in recent months.

“Our power industry remains saddled with age-old problems of power interruptions due to diminishing supply, system inefficiencies, and high reliance on fossil fuel. Every Filipino consumer deserves a reliable and sustainable supply of electricity at reasonable prices,” said Senator Risa Hontiveros, author of the recently filed Senate Resolution No. 746 which calls for a probe on the government’s failure to reduce power costs 20 years after EPIRA.

Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda, an author of the Renewable Energy Law of 2008, expressed conviction at the potential of renewable energy in addressing power and energy burdens carried by consumers.

“Unless we are able to replace the reality that [renewable energy] (RE) is a global phenomenon that is beginning to replace coal and fossil fuels as a cheaper energy source, our energy policies will continue to waver…All this will bear upon our power consumers. There is a need to broaden the country’s energy options in ways that will allow us to integrate RE into the power system,” she said.

Advancing transformative energy from renewables would also aid in addressing job loss, which has become even more prevalent due to COVID-19, as the DOE itself estimates that the jobs that renewable energy power generation projects will generate per MW is seven times more compared to fossil fuel power generation projects.

“In addition to supplying needed peaking demands to pick-up the slack from unreliable baseload coal plants, expediting renewable energy projects will also provide green jobs in the middle of a recession and pandemic. Under the PEP’s 2040 clean energy scenario, renewable energy power generation projects will generate a total of 538,533 jobs, while fossil fuel power generation projects, will generate only 85,381 jobs,” the report notes.