DOE pushes ‘mangrove sequestration’ to manage coal plants’ emissions

Published December 1, 2021, 3:03 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

To pare the country’s carbon emissions without compromising energy security, the Department of Energy (DOE) is examining the feasibility of “mangrove sequestration” so carbon emissions of coal plants can be offset or managed.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi noted that while the department gives premium on the country’s energy security needs, “we should actively explore the potential of out-of-the-box solutions that could reduce the harmful greenhouse gas emissions of coal plants.”

The energy chief qualified that the Philippines is still at that stage wherein it cannot just totally eliminate coal plants because these generating assets serve a key component of the power mix – primarily in the need to satiate baseload electricity requirements; while renewables have yet to establish their foothold on reliability with the support of battery storage.

As propounded by experts, mangroves are among the top carbon-capturing ecosystem on the planet – and they could sequester even higher scale of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than other biomes or the collection of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat on Earth.

In other jurisdictions, such as Indonesia and some African countries, which employed carbon capture strategy via mangroves, there are underpinning policies or regulations that their government have been enforcing – including ‘blue carbon’ policies, so they can preserve and manage mangroves, that in turn, could become part of their contribution to global climate change solutions.

Typically, ‘blue carbon’ policies or regulations are enforced in collaboration with the forestry agencies or departments of governments; and these are integrated as part of their “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” or REDD+ strategy on saving forests as well as in keeping the climate safe.

“With the global community racing to find ways to curb the adverse impact of climate change on the planet, mangroves continue to gain scientific interest due to their ability to stockpile significant amounts of carbon in their wood and soil, instead of releasing it back into the atmosphere,” the DOE explained.

In particular, Cusi issued a Memorandum on November 24 this year instructing the department’s Energy Policy and Planning Bureau (EPPB) to scrutinize existing studies relating to carbon capture employing mangroves; or even the many ‘carbon sink programs’ already carried out by some power companies in the country.

From that step, the DOE-EPPB was further instructed “to submit its own study on the possibility of putting up mangroves for CO2 emission reduction from coal-fired power plants.”

The other approach being sorted by the energy department is to “seek technical assistance from development partners for such a study.”

The energy chief asserted that the study “if proven, could help the Philippines in fulfilling the CO2 requirements without sacrificing our goal to achieve energy security given our energy-neutral portfolio.”

The Philippine power sector is still traversing that crossroads wherein in cyclical pattern, its power grids including its economic center in Luzon, could still teeter on the edge of supply scarcity which could then result in unwanted blackouts.