Tech-neutral approach to address energy needs

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ENSURING that all Filipinos have basic access to electricity by 2022 and making the domestic power industry competitive via the use of clean, efficient, robust and sustainable systems are just some of the government’s energy goals.

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Moving the goalposts forward, it recognizes that even more has to be done as peak demand is expected to surge to 49,287MW in 2040, from just 12,213 megawatts in 2015, under a high growth scenario where the economy will be expanding by not lower than 6 percent.

In previous interviews and speeches, Energy department officials have said that they had adopted a technology-neutral policy as a way of meeting the Philippines’ power needs. This means a portfolio of installed and dependable capacities that will include traditional oil and coal-based plants, renewable sources, and possibly even nuclear power.

One concern is the expected depletion of resources from the Malampaya Deepwater Gas-to-Power Project, which supplies a large part of Luzon’s energy needs. With its serviceable life expected to end in 2024, the government is searching for other sources.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is one option, with the government announcing plans to transform the country into a regional trading hub. The other is nuclear power and officials have extended efforts to make this more palatable to consumers following the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant debacle of the Marcos years.

The dictatorship had wanted to lead the country into the nuclear age, taking out massive loans to build the BNPP. Concerns over its design and location, and the People Power Revolution of 1986, put paid to that plan and succeeding governments never seriously considered reviving the nuclear option.

The Duterte government, however, has taken an interest in the technology and public consultations on the possible revival of the BNPP are ongoing. Leveraging on increased ties with Russia, experts from that country are even conducting a study on the plant’s possible reopening.

A national position will be issued once consultations are concluded, Energy department officials said.

State-owned Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC), meanwhile, is considering two options for monetizing gas stocks from Malampaya, the first that of trading the gas abroad or extracting it and selling locally as electricity.

Expected proceeds will be used for the construction of an LNG hub off Tabangao, Batangas. PNOC is targeting to finish the project either by 2019 or 2020.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has claimed that the Philippines is already the de facto LNG transshipment hub for Asia, with Subic particularly being used by an exporter as a transshipment point.

He stressed the need to take advantage of opportunities in this sector, saying that contructing the LNG hub would bring in business, generate jobs and raise investor confidence in the Philippines.

Malacanang, for its part, has classified big-ticket energy undertakings as projects of national significance. Executive Order 30 signed last June fast-tracks processing of these projects and also mandates the creation of an Energy Investment Coordinating Council.

As the country is also prone to natural disasters, the Energy department is also working on making the energy infrastructure more resilient via the establishment of risk reduction and recovery programs to ensure continued delivery of needed power.

At the consumer level, it also wants to educate Filipinos about the need to be smarter about their consumption. In addition to watching their power use to reduce demand on the system, the department’s “E-Power Mo” campaign also urges consumers to consider sourcing their electricity from renewable sources.

 

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