Aboitiz Power Corporation (AboitizPower) President and CEO Emmanuel Rubio underscored the critical role of non-renewable traditional energy sources in attaining energy security in the short to long terms, especially during the summer months when electricity demand is at its highest and amidst the country’s ever-growing demand for dependable electricity.
“[Existing] thermal plants will continue to have a significant role to play in terms of providing reliable and stable power for the country,” Rubio said in a television interview.
“Energy demand has bounced back quite significantly. In fact, we are seeing record peaks in the last few weeks given the hot weather,” he added.
Rubio said that the supply and demand margins currently remain thin as the only new investment for base load capacity was GNPower Dinginin Ltd. Co.’s (GNPower Dinginin) 1,336-megawatt (MW) power plant in Mariveles, Bataan.
GNPower Dinginin, the biggest and most efficient coal-fired power plant to be built in the country, operates under the private limited partnership of AboitizPower’s Therma Power, Inc. and AC Energy Holdings, Inc.
As the country aspires to increase the share of renewable energies (RE) in its energy mix, Rubio said that the transition should be calculated and well managed, as opposed to being urgent and
This is in consideration of potential unintended consequences and standing tradeoffs.
In support, AboitizPower is expanding its RE portfolio to 4,600-MW, resulting in a 50:50 balance between its RE and thermal capacities by 2030. As of 2023, AboitizPower has a pipeline of more than 1,000 MW of RE projects, including developing wind and solar farms throughout the country, as well as geothermal.
“One thing I’m sure of is that we really need to transition to cleaner technologies. In base load, the option is liquified natural gas (LNG) as a transition fuel, and balancing that with renewable energy,” he said.
“We’ll have issues with regards to costs or reliability if we just keep on pushing [solely] for variable renewable energy. It would [also] probably put [the stability of] our grid at risk,” he added.
LNG is considered a cleaner base load capacity that complements RE power generation since LNG-powered turbines are able to quickly ramp up or down the quantity of its generated electricity to complement the inherent variability of certain RE sources.
“In the short- to mid-term, LNG is one of the options, although it still remains to be at a premium,” Rubio said.
“[But] we have land, and that’s why we are actually doing the feasibility studies for our 1,200-MW LNG [power plant] that we’re trying to schedule to come in to meet base load requirement[s] by 2028 to 2030,” he added, making reference to AboitizPower’s planned LNG project in Pagbilao, Quezon.
At the moment, AboitizPower operates coal plants Pagbilao units 1 and 2 via Therma Luzon, Inc. and Pagbilao unit 3 via a joint venture with TeaM Energy called the Pagbilao Energy Corporation (PEC).
In the same interview, Rubio also made mention of AboitizPower’s collaborative efforts with Japan generation company JERA Co., Inc. (JERA), specifically on assessing the feasibility of co-firing ammonia on coal plants and hydrogen on LNG facilities to reduce carbon emissions during thermal power generation.
Rubio also expressed optimism at the possibility of small modular reactors (SMRs) helping shoulder the country’s transition to a cleaner energy mix.
“I personally believe that small modular reactors will have a role to play in the Philippine energy
setting,” he said, mentioning how AboitizPower is in continuous discussion with SMR technology providers, including multinational NuScale Power Corp.
“I think the timeline will still be around mid-2035 when we can see this to be operating in the Philippines,” Rubio alsos aid.
Nuclear energy technology is seen as a source of reliable and clean baseload power, considering the weather-independence of its fuel and its zero CO2 emissions.
Catherine R. Cueto