Companies ramping up renewable energy plans

Solar panels are seen on the roof deck of a parking building at a mall in Quezon City, April 18, 2024. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

LISTED COMPANIES are ramping up their renewable energy (RE) plans amid the country’s energy transition.

“It’s an exciting time for us because, obviously, the market continues to grow. And, if anything, we’re now in a position where the narrative across ourselves, including our friendly competitors, is sort of converging, where we know there’s growth,” First Gen Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Francis Giles B. Puno said during the BusinessWorld Economic Forum on Wednesday.

Mr. Puno said that the Philippines would have “a lot of work to do” if it wants to decarbonize.    

“As a country, we rely so much on fossil fuel, but at the same time, we need to refocus our investments into cleaner and renewable energy sources,” Mr. Puno said.

The Lopez-led company is aiming to grow its total capacity to 13 gigawatts (GW) in the next six years, of which 7.5 GW will come from new renewable energy projects.

As of March 2024, coal-fired power plants remain the country’s top source of electricity with a share of 44.1% or a total installed capacity of 28,291 megawatts (MW) connected to the grid.

The government is aiming to increase the share of renewable energy in the country’s power mix to 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2040.

Raymond B. Ravelo, chief sustainability officer of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), said that RE would be key to sustainable growth.

Mr. Ravelo said that Meralco has developed a long-term sustainability strategy for its “just, orderly, and affordable transition into clean energy.”

“[From] 2031 to 2040 is where we will hopefully accelerate that shift, as we explore, assess, and potentially adopt next-generation clean technologies,” he said, referring to hydrogen, energy storage, offshore wind, and nuclear, particularly small modular reactors.

“Under these decarbonization efforts, it kind of has a social impact. So, we are very much aware that sustainability goes well beyond green and decarbonization,” he said.

Jaime Z. Urquijo, chief sustainability and risk officer of Ayala-led ACEN Corp., said that the company is finding ways to build more sustainable energy, “which is very much needed.”

“A couple of years ago, we announced the implementation of early coal retirement. Our commitment is to find a replacement for that,” Mr. Urquijo said.

Last year, ACEN launched its Just Energy Transition or JET roadmap for retiring the 246-MW plant under South Luzon Thermal Corp.

Currently, ACEN holds around 4,700 MW of attributable capacity across the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, India, and Australia. It is poised to reach its 5-GW capacity target ahead of its original 2025 schedule.

Richard J. Nethercott, president and chief executive officer of the Independent Electric Market Operator of the Philippines, Inc. (IEMOP), said that the government has programs to support the government’s RE target. 

IEMOP operates the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, the venue for trading electricity.

“The government has set a clear target. With such clear targets, everyone knows where to go and what to do. The government has also been rolling out programs in support of that target… everything is set on the right direction,” he said.

Mr. Nethercott said that the full commercial operations of the renewable energy market (REM) may be launched “as early as next month.”

The Philippine Electricity Market Corp. launched the interim commercial operations of the REM in 2022. REM is a venue for buying and selling renewable energy certificates which are equivalent to an amount of power generated from renewable energy sources. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera