Philippines overtakes China and Indonesia to be most dependent on coal-generated power


Coal-fired power plants in Mariveles, Bataan, the Philippines, on June 6, 2023.
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The Philippines’ dependency on coal-fired power surged 62% last year, overtaking China, Indonesia and Poland, according to London-based energy think-tank Ember.

The Philippines was also the most coal-dependent country in Southeast Asia in 2023, as adoption of renewable electricity generation remained low. The share of electricity generated from coal in the country climbed to 61.9% last year compared to 59.1% in 2022.

Overall, coal generation in the country also rose by 9.7%, higher than a 4.6% increase in electricity demand, the report said.

“Coal has played important roles in the Philippines’ energy security. In the 1990s, many new coal power plants were being built to meet the growing electricity demand,” Dinita Setyawati, senior electricity policy analyst for Southeast Asia at Ember Climate told CNBC.

Indonesia and the Philippines are the two most coal dependent countries in Southeast Asia and their reliance on coal is growing fast.

“To date, dependency on these coal power plants continues.”

Indonesia — the world’s fifth largest coal producer — followed closely behind, with the share of power generated from coal hitting fresh highs of 61.8% in 2023.

“Indonesia and the Philippines are the two most coal dependent countries in Southeast Asia and their reliance on coal is growing fast,” the report said, adding that the the Southeast Asian region saw a 2% uptick in coal reliance from 31% in 2022 to 33% last year.

China has made strides in reducing its reliance on the dirtiest fossil fuel for electricity generation, with demand standing at 60.7% in 2023 — lower than India at 75.2% and Poland at 61%, according to Ember.

The world’s biggest coal producer, China has made notable progress in renewable energy development. As a result, there’s been a slowdown in the rate of emission increase — from an average of 9% annually between 2001 and 2015, to 4.4% annually between 2016 and 2023, the energy think tank said in May, adding that clean electricity contributed to 35% of China’s total electricity generation.

Indonesia, Philippines lag in renewables

Indonesia and the Philippines are still years away from replacing coal as the main source of power capacity, and increasing renewable energy in its electricity mix is paramount.

“Indonesia and the Philippines have seen limited growth in their renewable electricity generation, as their wind and solar potential remains almost entirely untapped,” the report said.

Ember pointed out that wind and solar generation in the Philippines only increased from below 1 terawatt hours in 2015 to 3.7 TWH last year. This is significantly slower than growth in the rest of the region, where wind and solar generation climbed 46 TWh from 2015 to 2023 — mostly driven by Vietnam, the report said.

“Scaling up on renewable energy sources should be done in parallel with stopping the pace of coal-fired power generation in Indonesia and the Philippines,” Ember’s Setyawati told CNBC.

Indonesia’s government has to scale up its renewable energy ambitions, she said, adding that new policies to boost solar and wind power development should be introduced.

“For example, incentives for rooftop solar users, relaxation of local content requirements for wind and solar power producers and public research funding in solar and wind technologies.”

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