The entry of coal-fired power plants in Mindanao should be blamed for the rise of electricity costs in the region.
Thus, claimed the Power for People Coalition (P4P) in a statement Friday, April 16, adding that it has staunchly opposed the rapid expansion of the Mindanao coal fleet in recent years.
“On top of environmental degradation and issues on land rights of indigenous groups, among many others, coal made sure that ordinary Filipinos in Mindanao would have a hard time affording their electricity bills,” said Gerry Arances, convenor of the clean energy and consumers rights group.
“Mindanao is now awash with coal; it is generating more supply than the grid is able to absorb, and consumers are made to pay for electricity that does not get used up,” he explained.
An accumulated 1.837 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity is currently installed in the region, P4P said. Four out of the five coal power plants producing this capacity entered commercial operation only from 2015 onwards.
“Equal electricity access is a whole other matter as coal had also been unable to electrify many communities,” Arances added.
Environmental advocates have long referred to coal as a dirty energy source. One of them, the church and civil society-backed Withdraw from Coal (WFC), described power generation via coal as a “water-intesive process”–a big reason why it hurts the environment.
“From its extraction to combustion, coal pollutes the air, soil, and water on which communities across the Philippines depend on. Power generation from coal is a water-intensive process, which is why coal plants are always situated next to bodies of water. The use and eventual discharge of water in many power plants expose host communities and marine ecosystems to unnaturally warm water temperatures and coal processing by-products, such as coal ash,” it said.
Meanwhile, P4P mentioned in the same statement that as per the Department of Finance (DOF), the government is exploring the acquisition of coal-fired power plants in Mindanao with intention to shut them down upon improving the generation capacity of the Agus Pulangi Hydro power plants.
“We welcome this discourse on moving towards a future where Mindanao rids itself of coal, as people have already suffered much from its proliferation,” said Arances.