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Asean countries, including PHL, urged anew to ditch coal, switch to renewables

In file photo: The Burgos wind farm of First Gen-owned Energy Development Corporation (EDC), the country’s largest renewable energy producer.

AN environmental non-profit think tank has reported that the Philippines has emerged as the only country in the region that has registered a 42 percent jump in CO2 emission from coal power generation since the signing of the 2016 Paris Agreement.

In its July 6 report, Ember said that among the 10 Asean member-states, five countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam—or the “Asean 5,” make up 89 percent of the region’s total electricity generation. Their combined numbers make their contribution crucial to achieving clean energy transition in the region.

Further, solar and wind only make up 4 percent of Asean 5 electricity, compared to 10 percent globally. By 2030, Ember said the five countries’ share would go up to only 11 percent of the total generation.

By 2030 Vietnam is expected to generate 18 percent solar and wind in total, the Philippines 16.5 percent, and Thailand 9.6 percent. Malaysia and Indonesia would reach 3.4 percent and 2 percent, respectively.

The numbers, Ember said do not align with the International Energy Agency (IEA) net-zero pathway. It added that recent trends show that if clean energy cannot keep up with the rising demand, fossil fuels will take over.

“This is not enough to meet the rapidly rising demand for power and to put the region on the IEA’s 1.5 degree pathway. In fact, the report shows that clean power is not keeping pace with electricity demand. The Asean 5 saw their electricity demand rise by 22 percent from 2015 to 2021. Less than half of that [39 percent] was met with clean electricity. Half [48 percent] was met with fossil fuels. This led to a 21 percent rise in power sector CO2 emissions,” it said.

Ember cited the Philippines’s solar and wind power installations represent only 2.6 percent of total generation in 2021, compared to 4 percent Asean-wide and 10 percent globally. Based on the power sector development plan, the Philippines’s solar and wind share in the region will only increase to 16.5 percent by 2030.

From 2015 to 2021, Ember said electricity demand in the country rose wherein only 12 percent has been met with clean electricity, while electricity from coal generation met 88 percent of the demand. The remaining 3 percent was met with gas generation.

“The rise in clean electricity generation was driven by growth in solar and wind which saw a near-double increase in generation. On the other hand, coal power generation increased by 75 percent. Accordingly, its share jumped from 27 percent to 47 percent. It was the only country among Asean 5 to see a rise in coal generation every year since the Paris Agreement,” it said.

Under current government policies, solar and wind are projected to supply only one tenth of total electricity generation in 2030. Ember Asia electricity data analyst Uni Lee said this is not nearly enough to meet the rapidly growing demand. “Rapid scaling-up of solar and wind and grid modernization is going to be a crucial piece of the puzzle to solve the climate crisis in this region.”

Instead, Ember stressed the countries need to ramp up solar and wind power generation capacity to keep up with increasing demand and prevent power sector CO2 emissions.

Ember Asia electricity analyst Achmed Edianto said governments need to redress 2030 energy plans even as solar and wind power developments are progressing across Southeast Asia. It stressed that more aggressive targets and timely execution are needed to utilize the vast potential.

“Governments should unleash the power of solar and wind, as is happening already in China, India, and across much of the world. As fossil fuels prices soar through the roof, solar and wind prices remain low, providing affordable, homegrown energy,” he said. -30-

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