First Gen exec: Multisectoral support needed in clean energy transition

jon russell edited

The setting up of liquified natural gas (LNG) facilities in the country, coupled with a close collaboration between the government and other industry stakeholders will play a crucial role in accelerating the phase-out of coal-fired power plants as the country joins the rest of the globe in transitioning to green energy.

“Perhaps a multi-sectoral and cross-functional team from government, private sector and financial sector can be formed to champion this transition,” First Gen EVP and Chief Commercial Officer Jonathan Russell said in an online presentation during the 26th Conference of the Electricity Power Supply Industry (CEPSI), the biggest biennial gathering among power and industry leaders, experts and professionals in the East Asia and the Western Pacific region.

“As clearly stated in the [United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)] Report, and as portended by the heightened levels of unprecedented natural calamities all over the world, there really is no doubt that if we do not effect drastic changes to address climate change today, its effects will soon become irreversible,” Russell said.

He also stressed that “[RE] from intermittent sources such as solar and wind has a number of limitations that will hinder a full and immediate energy transition,” adding that “[baseload] RE like geothermal is limited, site-specific, and, as such, has its own technical limitations to deal with.”

“Gas-fired plants can respond quickly and reliably when variable renewable sources are not available, allowing the lights to stay on,” Russell pointed out. “First Gen is, therefore, pioneering the development of [an LNG] terminal that will introduce reliable, flexible, and cost-competitive LNG to the Philippines.”

“We must find a way to value gas for some time and increase its capability for back-up rather than continuous supply. And this means having a regulatory framework that supports making plans to have enough fuel in stock for when it is needed,” he added.

Russell also stressed that LNG’s role in the transition period will be temporary.

“It [LNG] should be used only for so long as it performs a positive role in displacing coal and supporting renewables,” he explained.  “In due course gas or LNG must also be decarbonized or phased down, and the option to utilize green hydrogen remains a possibility.”

First Gen owns and operates four of the five natural gas plants in the country feeding on fuel from the Malampaya gas field in Palawan. Amid Malampaya’s supply depletion, the Lopez-owned firm is building its own LNG import terminal. Meanwhile, First Gen unit Energy Development Corporation runs all of the firm’s RE plants, including the 150-megawatt (MW) Burgos Wind Farm in Ilocos Norte and the 610.2MW Unified Leyte Geothermal Plant.