DoE enforces moratorium on new coal power developments

To force the country into ‘clean energy’ transition, the Department of Energy (DOE) has enforced moratorium on new coal-fired power plant projects.

But it’s not time for the clean energy advocates to pop the champagne bottle yet, because the DoE qualified the moratorium will not cover projects that are already endorsed; or those that have already secured permits including environmental compliance certificates (ECCs) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The cessation of coal plant developments, according to Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella, will stay until the country will not be in need of additional baseload capacity.

"We need to prepare for the influx of RE (renewable energy) under the recent policies issued by the DOE. Hence the need for more flexibility," Fuentebella said.

Essentially, in the next wave of power developments, the energy department is setting preferential treatments for RE technologies, but with a caveat that the moratorium is rather half-baked because this will only stay until the next baseload capacity additions are needed.

And based on forecasts, the need for baseload capacity in the biggest power grid of Luzon in particular will be until year 2024 – a timeframe that is not covered anymore by this current administration.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G.  Cusi declared that based on the department’s assessment, there is already a paramount need “for the country to shift to a more flexible power supply mix.”

He said “this would help build a more sustainable power system that will be resilient in the face of structural changes in demand and will be flexible enough to accommodate the entry of new, cleaner, and indigenous technological innovations.”

Nevertheless, the department cannot categorically lay down at this point which coal projects are in the scope of the moratorium - it just noted that the coverage would be the developments yet to be proposed.

In the DOE’s list of indicative and committed power projects, there are still array of shovel-ready coal plant projects that already secured the endorsements of the DoE - and some are even classified as “energy projects of national significance.”

The energy chief said “while we have initially embraced a technology neutral policy, our periodic assessment of our country's energy requirements is paving the way for innovative adaptations in our policy direction.”

Cusi stressed the moratorium on the endorsements for greenfield coal power plants “are but among the innovative policies that the DOE will be implementing.”

He emphasized that as the energy department re-evaluates “the appropriateness of our current energy mix vis-a-vis our energy goals, I am optimistic that this would lead to more opportunities for RE to figure prominently in our country's energy future.”