RCBC to stop funding coal power projects

Published December 10, 2020, 2:14 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

Yuchengco-led Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC) has forthrightly declared that it will no longer extend financing to new coal-fired power projects in the Philippines.

That came as a daring statement from RCBC President and CEO Eugene S. Acevedo, the first bank chief executive to do so following last month’s coal moratorium declaration by the Department of Energy.

“No more coal, no more coal. I’ll say that slowly — NO MORE COAL,” he told reporters who were attending the Yuchengco Groups’ Future-Proofing 2021 virtual forum.

Acevedo made it clear to the journalists that the bank will be taking a milestone change and shift on its energy project funding – that the leaning moving forward will be largely on renewables and gas-fired power facilities.

“The good news is: many of those who used to be coal are migrating to renewables,” the RCBC chief executive said, noting that while there might not be a set percentage on their energy loan portfolios now, the sure thing is they will just bankroll clean energy projects in the foreseeable future.

“I’m going to say that moving forward, all our loans for energy projects will be non-coal, it will be 100 percent non-coal… but, it’s very difficult for the country to subsist on purely renewables, so we’ll have a mix,” he said.

Acevedo further opined that  “to create a robust energy grid, there has to be a combination of renewables plus a few power plants that are rapidly ratcheted up — and those plants are usually gas-fired. So, we might have a combination of gas and a lot of renewables moving forward.”

He likewise highlighted the waning appetite on coal investments, with him emphasizing that syndicate of banks had not actually seen a major coal-fired power project taking off from blueprint in the last two years.

The DOE is cementing a “clean energy scenario” pathway for the country in its energy planning within 2020-2040 stretch, and the chunk of new builds – at more than 44,000 megawatts, will be renewable energy installations.

For the Yuchengco group of companies – via several corporate vehicles under its PetroEnergy Resources Corporation – their ‘clean energy journey’ had already started long before the government had pulled the plug on new coal plant projects.

The conglomerate had pushed investments in geothermal, solar and wind developments – both in Luzon and Visayas grids; and this is an investment trajectory that the group will continually pursue in the coming years.

When asked if the Yuchengco group also has aspirations to inject capital for energy projects outside the country, PetroEnergy President Milagros S. Reyes indicated that there are plans being cast but it will not be as immediate as this year.

“There are a lot of areas that we need to power here in the Philippines, but we haven’t even step into offshore area – offshore meaning on water, not across the seas,” Reyes said, as she hinted possibility for the company venturing into offshore wind.