DOE chief bats for balanced energy mix

MANILA - - THE Philippines will need both coal and renewable energy RE to meet its power supply requirements, the country's new energy chief said on Monday.

As a developing country, Philippines cannot afford not to have coal and will need to come up with "a healthy balance of coal and renewable power plants," Department of Energy DOE Secretary Alfonso Cusi said.

"We lack capacity for dependable power. We can't just merely rely on renewables for now," Cusi said after the DOE turnover ceremony in Taguig City on Monday.

"We cannot just discount coal. We have to help one another find that solution. I'm sure Ms. Gina Lopez is open to a solution to adequate power supply," Cusi told reporters in reaction to new Environment Secretary Gina Lopez's campaign against coal mining and the use of fossil fuels as energy sources.

Under the previous administration former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, the government was targeting a fuel mix of 30 percent from coal, 30 percent from RE, 30 percent from natural gas, and the remaining 10 percent from oil-based power plants.

The fuel mix goal was aimed at reducing the country's coal dependence. But the Duterte administration seeks to review current energy policies to create a policy framework that would be conducive to and stimulate balanced energy investments.

"Coal is more dependable and a more reliable source for baseload [power] than renewables. We can't be dependent on just a single source," Cusi said.

Based on DOE data, 70 percent of the 5,000 megawatts MW of power-generating capacity that are being built and will be built until 2020 are coal-based. Also, data show that there are around 20 coal-fired power plants operating in the country today.

Last year, the Philippines submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution INDC to the United Nations, committing to cut by 70 percent its carbon emissions by 2030.

Cusi also vowed to review current electricity charges, which include transmission, distribution, generation, the socalled universal charge, and others.

He said he also wanted to take a look at the electricity being charged for the depressed areas where the less privileged may be exploited by the unscrupulous.

"We will review the service contracts, check for deliverables, power reserves and interconnectivity," he said.

Cusi is also looking at the possibility of converting the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant into an LNG liquified natural gas terminal, but made it clear he has no plans of reviving the nuclear plant. During his term, the interconnection of the Mindanao Grid to the Visayas and Luzon grids may happen, although this project is still under review.

The priority is to increase and boost power supply, he said. Mindanao is only 72 percent energized and the target is to make it 100 percent, he added.

Cusi also brushed aside criticisms about his qualifications to head the DOE.

"You don't have to be an energy man to lead the DOE. I need to be a manager. I'll be coming from a perspective of a consumer," he said. Cusi added that there will be changes in the leadership of attached agencies and DOE undersecretaries "but not for now."


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