The incoming administration of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr., should push for the conversion of coal-fired power plants in the country into liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, said Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) Chairperson Agnes Devanadera.
She pointed out that the Department of Energy (DOE), together with existing coal plant owners, can come up with a policy and possible cost projections for the conversion.
In 2020, the DOE issued a moratorium on the construction of new coal-fired power plants. However, Devanadera noted that there are coal investments ongoing and those that are in the construction stage.
She added that companies whose coal projects have yet to begin construction can be asked to study the “possible conversion of their project to natural gas [projects].”
This move, Devanadera said, can help avoid stranded assets and maximize investments, and at the same time, avoid the discouragement of old investors who put up coal plants “when the country needed them the most.”
Earlier, the outgoing ERC chief has asked the next administration to suspend coal and fuel excise tax to help lower power rates, as well as the removal of value added tax on generation charges. These suggestions have led Sen. Imee Marcos, the president-elect’s elder sister, to endorse Devanadera to become the next Energy secretary.
However, this endorsement raised concerns for energy consumer groups. Power for People Coalition (P4P) said that Devenadera’s term should not be viewed “from the lens of her VAT proposal, but what she has accomplished.”
“So far, we have not seen any benefit to the consumer from her oversight. Be it the protection of consumers from abuse and accountability from power companies, return of correct refunds, resolution of bill shocks from the last few years – all these are nowhere to be seen and continue to be a burden to the public,” P4P convenor Gerry Arances said in a statement.
“What Chair Devanadera should be facing are hearings and complaints for turning her back to her obligations, not a cabinet appointment. She failed consumers in her post as ERC chair and we are deeply worried by what she can do or, in this case, cannot do as DOE secretary that will benefit power stakeholders,” he added.
According to the group, the DOE will also continue delaying a sustainable transformation of the energy sector if it is to be led by Sen. Marcos’s bet. The next Energy chief, according to Arances, must put the long-term welfare of consumers ahead of the profits of industry players.
“A DOE under Devanadera would not be instrumental to achieving a much needed energy transition. From policies on power procurement that remain unfair to renewables to the lax imposition of penalties on fossil companies for anomalous services, Devanadera has proven herself to be an ally of coal, gas, and other dirty energy,” Arances said.
“We’re bound to see the DOE remaining fossil friendly with her at its helm. Her recommendation to convert coal into gas plants, which would once again keep [renewable energy] from rapidly occupying the energy mix upon a coal phaseout, is a glimpse of this,” he added.