PH mulls tapping foreign states for coal plant buyout

The Department of Finance (DOF) is exploring how foreign governments can contribute to the Philippines’ efforts to accelerate the decommissioning and repurposing of its coal-fired power plants.

As overseas companies have a significant stake in the country’s coal-fired power plants, DOF Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III broached the possibility of foreign governments buying out the shareholdings of their respective citizens.

The proceeds from the would-be buyout could help the finance vehicle created for the Philippines under the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Energy Transition Mechanism (ETM) initiative.

“If we can get the foreign governments to buy out those shareholders and donate the shares of that company to a government—to our government—or to a group, including ADB and other agencies, we can actually shut down that plant,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez also proposed that employees operating coal-fired plants up for decommissioning be retrained to work in other energy projects.

He cited, for instance, a coal plant in Mindanao that is among those up for decommissioning under the partnership forged by the Philippines and ADB through the new ETM facility.

“First of all, there are not a lot of people actually working in that particular coal-fired power plant, or in any coal-fired power plant. So it’s very easy to retrain them to do other projects,” Dominguez said.

The ETM is a public-private finance vehicle that aims to both reduce coal-fired power generation through accelerated plant retirement and boost the growth of renewable energy (RE) using an equitable, scalable and market-based approach.

Under the financing strategy, the partners in the ETM will jointly conduct a thorough feasibility study focusing on the optimal business model for the pilot countries, which so far include the Philippines and Indonesia.

The ETM will bring together concessional resources from donor governments and philanthropies, in close coordination with global climate change-focused funds, to leverage large amounts of commercial capital to trigger a decisive shift towards decarbonization.

Dominguez has said the ETM-supported project in Mindanao “is one of the practical projects we are ready to implement to fully realize our ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 75 percent in 2030.”

The Philippines has a unique opportunity in Mindanao to pilot the ETM project as the government is in the process of rehabilitating the Agus-Pulangi hydropower plant to improve its generating capacity, Dominguez pointed out.

As the Agus-Pulangi power plant complex composed of seven hydropower plants increases its generating capacity, the government can proceed with its plan to gradually acquire coal-fired power plants in Mindanao and repurpose them through the ETM facility, he added.