As the Philippines prepares to move away from coal, the Climate Change Commission (CCC) is beefing up its support for renewable energy which presents the big opportunities for local investment.
The country has “nothing to lose but all to gain” if it is able to shift investors away from coal to RE sources, particularly solar, wind, and geothermal, CCC Secretary Emmanuel de Guzman said.
“It is RE, not coal, which constitutes the biggest investment opportunity ever for the Philippines,” De Guzman said, noting the external costs of coal far outweigh its economic benefits.
Given the range and potential magnitude of the negative impact associated with fossil fuel, De Guzman said scaling up RE is the best and only alternative for the country to meet its energy demand and proposed contribution to international efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), there are 20 coal-fired power plants operating across the country and 12 more in the pipeline are expected to be operational from 2016 to 2020. These plants have a combined capacity output of 4,592 megawatts (MW), or about 42 percent of the country’s demand.
In contrast, the Philippines’ abundant supply of renewable energy sources offers a huge potential to meet the country’s power requirements in the country.
RE has the potential to contribute more than 40 percent of the country’s installed capacity by 2020, based on the updated National Renewable Energy Program.
Investing in RE is practically the same as investing for a less carbon-intensive future, De Guzman said.
“Opportunities await the bold. We can also do no less than shield our struggling people from further harm,” he added.
Coal-fired power plants are the biggest sources of man-made carbon emissions, accounting for about 35 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
In 2012, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded 3.7 million premature deaths from ambient air pollution and 4.3 million deaths from household air pollution.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), which supports nations transitioning to sustainable energy, estimates the external impact of energy supply and use related to climate change and air pollution at $2.2 trillion to $5.9 trillion a year. In comparison, the cost of global energy supply is about $ 5 trillion per year.
De Guzman said this only shows that the negative externalities of coal-fired power plants cost higher than the actual price of electricity.
Besides health costs, De Guzman said air pollution directly impacts on labor force productivity in terms of man-hours lost at home, health facilities, or caring for others.
“We should actually bring in the Department of Health and the Department of Labor and Employment, and ask each to assess the country’s share of the four million coal and diesel deaths that the WHO has estimated each year in Asia, plus the labor productivity losses of keeping to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” De Guzman said.
In October 2015, the Philippines submitted during the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC its INDC to reduce its GHG emissions by 70 percent by 2030, subject to the support of developed countries.
The reductions will come from the energy, transport, waste, forestry, and industry sectors.