By: Ronnel W. Domingo | Philippine Daily Inquirer
Adoption of cleaner technologies for coal-fired power plants is vital for Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines considering that this fossil fuel will continue to cover a significant part of the region’s electricity supply amid rising demand, according to the International Energy Agency.
The Paris-based agency said in its Southeast Asia Energy Outlook 2019 report the region’s economy was expected to double over the next two decades, which would see overall energy demand grow by 60 percent.
A concurrent increase in fossil fuel consumption is projected, particularly the continued rise in coal demand, that will push a two-thirds rise in carbon dioxide emissions by 2040.
“Relatively low generation costs and indigenous supply have traditionally given coal a prominent place in power sector planning,” the IEA said.
Based on current policies and plans of governments in the Southeast Asian region, coal is set to retain a strong position —at 40 percent—in the region’s electricity generation mix.
However, the IEA said lower final investment decisions for new coal-fired generation in 2019, along with a rise in additional solar power project , hinted at a downward direction for coal.
“Southeast Asia’s response to rising energy demand pressures to date has focused mainly on increasing fossil fuel supply and, in some cases, on shielding consumers from abrupt rises in prices,” the agency said.
“While this response has supported consumption without increasing the burden for consumers, it has also come with significant societal costs,” the IEA added. “In addition to the local pollution effects of the current energy pathway, strong growth in fossil fuel consumption has led to a doubling of regional energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in the past two decades, contributing to global risks of climate-related impacts.”
Thus, Southeast Asian government must tackle the issue of aging coal-fired plants, starting with the least-efficient facilities.
“Among the policy options, carbon capture, utilization and storage [or CCUS] is a vital technology to reduce emissions from the power sector and from industry,” the IEA said.
In the Philippines, the Manila Electric Co. group is pushing for the addition of more power plants that use high-efficiency, low-emission (HELE) technology.
In October, Meralco PowerGen Corp. or MGen, inaugurated the 455-megawatt San Buenvantura supercritical coal-fired power plant in Quezon province—described as more efficient than conventional plants because it can generate more heat from less coal