The recent statement of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) President and CEO Ramon S. Ang (RSA) that its power unit, SMC Global Power Holdings Corp. (SMCGP), is adding more renewable energy sources into its power portfolio that will significantly cut its carbon footprint even as it continues to address the urgent need for reliable and affordable power is a welcomed development.
It is the policy of the Philippine State to accelerate the exploration and development of renewable energy resources as stipulated in Republic Act No. 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008. The government’s National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) seeks to increase the renewable energy-based capacity of the country to an estimated 15,304 MW by the year 2030. Renewable energy sources include biomass, geothermal, hydro, ocean, solar, wind and hybrid systems.
In his remarks at a virtual economic briefing for senior executives of Philippine companies in the US and American companies in the Philippines and Philippine and US officials last April, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez underscored the government’s commitment to the targets set by the Paris Agreement on climate change, adding that the Philippines will pursue investments in green technologies and clean energy.
The pronouncement of RSA is another testament of his and SMC’s support to government efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change
SMCGP’s shift to cleaner, renewable energy sources and technologies will significantly contribute to reducing the country’s carbon footprint while at the same time meet the country’s need for reliable and affordable electricity.
According to RSA, SMC will no longer pursue plans to build new coal facilities, despite new technologies that make them cleaner. “It’s a company direction that is in line with all the major sustainability initiatives we have undertaken these past couple of years,” he said.
SMC has dropped plans to put up three new clean-coal power plants with a capacity of 1,500 MW in favor of new facilities that utilizes cleaner, renewable energy sources. These were the circulating fluidized bed coal-fired plants in Pagbilao and Sariaya, both in Quezon province each with 600MW capacity and the Looc Malabuyoc coal-fired plant in Cebu with a 300 MW capacity.
While coal is abundant and inexpensive to convert into useful energy, it is classified as non-renewable energy source. Its use has also raised concerns about climate change resulting from greenhouse gas emissions.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) listed the principal emissions that result from coal combustion: Sulfur dioxide (SO2), which contributes to acid rain and respiratory illnesses; Nitrogen oxides, which contribute to smog and respiratory illnesses; Particulates, which contribute to smog, haze, and respiratory illnesses and lung disease; Carbon dioxide (CO2), which is the primary greenhouse gas produced from burning fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas); Mercury and other heavy metals, which have been linked to both neurological and developmental damage in humans and other animals; and Fly ash and bottom ash, which are residues created when power plants burn coal.
“For several years now, we have been articulating our plans to move into cleaner and renewable power, and we would like to report to the public that now, these plans have not only taken shape but we have actually started implementing them,” RSA said.
SMCGP is constructing 31 Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) facilities around the country and solar plants in ten locations all of which will be completed during the period 2021-2023. The BESS facilities will have a total capacity of 1,000 MW and will greatly benefit power consumers all over the country. The SMC subsidiary will put up solar plants in combination with battery storage facilities at 10 locations throughout the country. BESS facilities he added, can facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources such as wind or solar into the grid. These will be operational by 2023.
The company completed the first battery energy storage facility in 2018 in its power plant in Masinloc, Zambales.
A 1,300 MW Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) combined cycle plant which will be constructed in Batangas City is expected to provide clean and stable power to Meralco over the next 20 years, starting 2024. Aside from this, SMC also plans to build small-scale LNG plants in the Visayas and Mindanao areas to help boost rural electrification. Construction of several hydroelectric power plants in Luzon is also in the pipeline.
SMCGP is one of the biggest power suppliers in the country through its combined installed capacity of 4,697 MW. According to the Department of Energy EPIRA Report 2020, the power the Company produces is approximately 20% of the National Grid, 27% of the Luzon Grid, and 8% of the Mindanao Grid (as of December 31, 2020).
RSA ensures that sustainability is integrated into SMC’s strategic plans. “All these efforts including our ongoing initiatives to clean up our rivers are geared towards helping ensure that our post-pandemic recovery is better, greener and sustainable,” he said.