The Duterte administration will no longer accept proposals to construct new coal power plants, a dramatic shift in energy policy that counts on declining costs of renewables to attract clean power investments.
The moratorium was announced in tandem with the relaxation on foreign ownership limits in geothermal energy, doubling down on the slow transition to clean power seen as a long-term fix to the Philippines’ supply problems and now even sky-high power costs.
When President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, his government abandoned a policy of his predecessor that prioritized renewables in favor of one that disregarded the energy source so long as it improves the country’s baseload capacity to meet the demand of a growing economy.
As a result, by 2017, the latest period on which data is available, coal projects proliferated, eating up a larger pie of the country’s energy mix at 26.7%. This happened while the share of renewables declined to just 39% in the same year from as much as 46.1% in 2006.
At the time, coal and other fossil fuels were still deemed cheaper than renewables even though 15.8% of the former were being imported and therefore translated to import costs passed on to consumers. But times have changed and Sara Ahmed, energy finance analyst at Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a think tank, said the government’s energy shift is very timely.
“The costs trajectory and the current costs of renewable energy, per kilowatt energy when generated domestically is getting cheaper than imported coal and imported gas,” Ahmed said in a phone interview. “The constraints we previously thought we have, we don’t actually have,” she added.