Climate and health groups have criticized the Department of Energy’s (DOE) recently-released waste-to-energy (WTE) draft circular, calling the agency’s classification of biomass energy as a form of renewable energy (RE) as “fallacious.”
The Ecowaste Coalition added that the proposed policy reflects the agency’s inclination to circumvent existing laws, most notably Republic Act (RA) 8749 or the Clean Air Act, which bans incineration.
“[RE] is defined as energy created from natural processes that do not get depleted. Waste, the feedstock for WTEs, cannot be properly classified in the same category as wind, wave or solar energy. Waste consists of discarded materials [like] paper, plastic and glass that are produced from the extraction and processing of finite natural resources such as minerals and fossil fuels. Moreover, burning these materials will do more harm to our environment and climate,” said Atty. Lievj Alimangohan of EcoWaste Coalition.
Atty. Alimangohan added that by classifying WTEs as RE, the DOE draft circular unduly expands the scope of RA 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act. He added that the policy promotes and legitimizes anti-competitive conduct in the power sector by giving special preferences for incineration over genuine renewable energy systems. Likewise, the policy also exposes consumers to disadvantageous power supply agreements by providing specific exemptions from competitive selection processes.
“WTE technologies all produce poisonous and toxic substances. These facilities simply transform the garbage problem into a more persistent environmental and health problem. They merely transform the waste into other forms of wastes, such as carbon monoxide, dioxins and furans, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon dioxide, methane, volatile organic compounds, aldehydes, particulate matter and heavy metals such as mercury, lead and cadmium. This is true even for WtE facilities that claim to be ‘high-tech and clean.'” said Sonia Mendoza of Mother Earth Foundation and a former Commissioner of the National Solid Waste Management Commission.
The groups emphasized that studies in Europe and the United States invariably show that WTE facilities generate very small amounts of energy and have very low efficiency rates, ranging from 19-27%. In Europe particularly, WTE facilities contributed less than 1.5% to the European Union’s final energy consumption. Given these low energy conversion rates of WTE facilities, the groups believe these cannot be expected to actually become baseload renewables in the Philippines.
WTE technologies and facilities, they add, are not just harmful to health and the environment, but financially burdensome which are harmful “solutions” that have been “greenwashed” to appear eco-friendly.