Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has indicated that while renewable energy is needed to address climate change, it is still too expensive for the Philippines, hence the need for conventional sources of energy to be made more sustainable.
In an article published at the South China Morning Post last March 22, Cusi wrote that there is no ”one-size-fits-all” approach to tackling climate change.
”Energy is a necessity for growth,” he wrote. “The UN lists access to reliable, affordable power among its 17 sustainable development goals. In Asia, where one in seven people lack access to basic electricity, the balance between promoting socioeconomic growth and combating climate change is an extremely fine one for governments. States like the Philippines must therefore strike a balance.”
The energy chief acknowledged that while the cost of renewable energy sources is falling, they are still more expensive than conventional energy sources. This may not be an issue for wealthy countries but it is a struggle for developing nations, he pointed out.
Moreover, he said, renewable sources of energy are relatively unreliable, which would impede progress and turn off potential investors.
”While we are by no means turning our backs on renewable energy, a technology-neutral approach will be required if the Philippines is to find this balance,” Cusi wrote.
Being technology-neutral means that the country should not be constrained by rigid or arbitrary targets in sourcing energy, he said, adding that the Philippines must consider both conventional and non-conventional sources.
He proposed to take action to make conventional energy sources more sustainable, for instance by refurbishing old coal power plants to increase fuel efficiency.
Cusi expressed his belief that phasing out old and inefficient generation facilities and promoting critical coal-fired plants would enable developing nations “to reduce their impact on the environment, providing alternative short- to medium-term solutions to prohibitively costly new energy sources that are more suited for long-term scenarios”.
“Ultimately, amid the uncertainty over the Paris Agreement and concerns about the financing of new renewable projects, there is an opportunity for developing countries to carve out their own climate strategy and take the lead action on climate change,” Cusi said in the article.
In closing, he noted that while it has an obligation to combat climate change, the country has a particular responsibility to its people.
“To reduce fuel poverty and encourage investment, while allowing further economic growth, we must prioritize reliable and affordable power. Rather than treating renewable energy as some sort of totem, the global focus should be on targeting any and all sources of emissions reduction,” he said.