Consumer rights

The instability of the coal supply adds to the urgency of the energy transition


A CONSUMER and energy rights group said on Wednesday that the Department of Energy (DoE) needed to push forward the transition to renewables, citing the risks to imported coal supplies.

“Consumers continue to be caught in a web of energy stability issues and volatile prices, all because we depend on a limited and largely imported source of energy,” said Gerry C. Arances, President of the Power for People coalition (P4P).

Concern was raised after Indonesia, one of the world’s largest exporters of thermal coal, which is the type used by power plants, imposed a temporary ban on coal exports on Saturday to ensure adequate supplies for its own electricity generators.

P4P said the effects of the ban would eventually show up in consumers’ monthly bills.

“We can be sure that more of (these incidents) will happen in the future as long as we insist on the use of fossil fuels, even as the vast capacity of renewable energy indigenous to our country is waiting to be tapped,” added Mr. Arances.

Coal accounts for more than half of the electricity produced in the Philippines in 2020, with imported coal accounting for 86% of the thermal coal used in the country. Of the coal imports, 96.88% come from Indonesia, according to the estimated DoE in 2020.

The export ban imposed by Indonesia, which is also China’s largest foreign supplier of coal, has pushed up global coal prices. Indonesian coal miners were due to meet with their government on Wednesday to review the export freeze.

“We need to stop relying on the world’s supply of fossil fuels – coal or whatever – quickly. We have said this many times at the DoE, and we hope Indonesia’s difficult situation now makes the message clear. We need to start by shutting down any new coal-fired power plants still in our pipeline, ”said Mr. Arances.

Business world contacted Under Secretary for Energy Felix William B. Fuentebella on Wednesday, seeking comment on the call to tighten the ban in the country and the possible effects of the Indonesian coal export ban on security energy supply in the country, but did not receive an immediate response.

Mr Arances added that the exemptions and limitations from the ban on new coal-fired power plants paved the way for additional coal capacity of around 9 gigawatts – one of the largest plants being in Atimonan, Quezon.

In October 2020, the DoE announced that it was not approving new coal-fired power plant projects to facilitate the shift to a more flexible electricity supply mix. – Marielle C. Lucenio