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The Philippines has declared a moratorium on new coal power plants, which could mean the scrapping of new coal projects that have yet to be approved by the government. The move, which has been widely welcomed by environmental campaigners, is likely to signal to investors in the region that the country is taking a turn to embrace renewable energy, particularly amid the strong push the clean energy sector has seen in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a speech at Singapore International Energy Week on Tuesday (October 27), the energy secretary of the government of the Philippines, Alfonso Cusi, announced that the country has declared a moratorium on new greenfield coal-fired power plants.
“As the Philippine Department of Energy re-evaluates the appropriateness of our current energy mix vis-a-vis our energy goals, I am optimistic that this would lead to more opportunities for renewable energy to figure prominently in our country’s energy future,” said Cusi about the move, which could effectively halt the planned coal projects amounting to 8-gigawatts of power that have yet to be approved by the department.
“We are also pushing for the transition from fossil fuel-based technology utilisation to cleaner energy sources to ensure more sustainable growth for the country,” added Cusi.
The decision has been welcomed by environmental campaigners, who point out that suspending permits for new coal projects could significantly reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, which was originally on-track to be doubled prior to the moratorium. In 2019, coal, the dirtiest of all fossil fuels, accounted for nearly half of the country’s electricity supply.
As the Philippine Department of Energy re-evaluates the appropriateness of our current energy mix vis-a-vis our energy goals, I am optimistic that this would lead to more opportunities for renewable energy to figure prominently in our country’s energy future.Alfonso Cusi, Secretary of Energy of the Philippine Government
However, the Philippine government has yet to identify which pre-permit contracts now in jeopardy, though the move is a clear sign that the country is doubling down on efforts to improve the resilience of energy supply, especially amid the price shocks that have taken place this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
In an earlier report released by the world’s energy watchdog the International Energy Agency (IEA), experts said that the pandemic has triggered the biggest energy crisis in 70 years and renewables are now clearly emerging as the only resilient source.
The Philippines’ current energy grid is also especially vulnerable to future climate-related shocks, such as more frequent and intense typhoons, and moving towards renewable energy will make the country more nimble to adjust to shifting demands, fluctuating needs and avoid regular power outages that plague many in the rural regions.
We are also pushing for the transition from fossil fuel-based technology utilisation to cleaner energy sources to ensure more sustainable growth for the country.Alfonso Cusi, Secretary of Energy of the Philippine Government
Speaking to Climate Home News, Red Constantino, executive director of the Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities said that even prior to the coronavirus crisis, the government had been aware of the need to modernise its energy mix.
“The pandemic delayed that decision but also affirmed it – what they wanted to do before Covid-19 became even more critical. The myth of coal of being more reliable ended.”
Other Southeast Asian nations have also stepped up their decarbonisation efforts in recent months, moving away from their long-held reputation as the final bastions propping up coal power.
In June, after rising pressure for a green coronavirus recovery plan, the Indonesian government announced that it is working on a scheme with local think tanks to install solar panels across thousands of rooftops – a move that is expected to cost over US$1 billion annually, but will help generate more than 20,000 new jobs and support the country’s commitment to slash carbon emissions.
Lead image courtesy of Pexels.