Think tank urges government to stick to RE, shun nuke power option

Local think-tank Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development (CEED) strongly urged incoming energy secretary Raphael Lotilla to focus on renewable energy (RE) over gas and nuclear.

“Lotilla inherits the record-high power rates, dwindling energy security, and volatile supply and fuel prices that plague the energy sector today. The Philippines tempted this kind of trouble by massively expanding coal use in the last decade. It is now doing the same with fossil gas and liquefied natural gas [LNG],” said Gerry Arances, Executive Director of CEED.

From 38 percent in 2010, coal’s share in the power generation mix increased to 57 percent in 2020. While the Department of Energy’s (DOE) moratorium on new coal power projects helped reduce the planned coal projects by nearly half, “another fossil fuel in the form of natural gas, which must be appropriately called fossil gas, and its liquid form liquefied natural gas, is touted as the new preferred fuel in the latest energy plans,” said CEED.

Arances challenged Lotilla to reshape the country’s energy sector, saying RE should be his priority.

“It makes no sense that we are preparing to receive large amounts of imported LNG as global prices continue to skyrocket and no clarity if there will be sufficient fuel supply to cover the Philippines’s power needs,” Arances added.

CEED also said that nuclear “will bring more harm than good to the energy sector and consumers.”

“Peddling nuclear energy as if it is the quick fix to our energy woes is dangerous because it glosses over the fact that the barriers to and risks associated with nuclear—including financial, social, and environmental costs—outweigh the benefits.

We are yet to see any plan on how to address costly nuclear waste disposal whose technology and upkeep required are never economical to begin with. Why should we import fuels such as uranium and plutonium for nuclear facilities when there are far safer and affordable renewable sources we should be developing?” said Arances.

Former President Rodrigo Duterte has signed Executive Order  (EO) 164, which allows the country to include nuclear power in its energy mix.

The EO should be solidified with the enactment of a law that will provide for the policy and regulation of nuclear plants, as well as the creation of an agency that shall focus on the laying down the foundations necessary for the inclusion of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix.

“The next DOE chief should prioritize breaking off our overreliance on the importation of fuels—whether it be fossil or nuclear. The whole conversation about reviving nuclear is another distraction that is veering us away from the solution that is right in front of us which is renewable energy,” Arances added.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Solar and Storage Alliance (PSSA) said the energy sector is in a period of transition towards a greener grid.

“The leadership before [Lotilla] has already issued policies that put in place the mechanism for the injection of about 17 gigawatts solar energy by 2030. We will work with him in as we did in the past when solar energy was still deployed in off-grid and remote communities around the country,” said PSSA Chairperson Tetchi Capellan.

The group, she said, will continue to find ways to lower the generation cost by introducing more efficient technologies, better business processes, and applying cost-saving measures.