THE Asia-Pacific region continues to build coal-fired power plants even as countries embark on a transition to clean energy, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) said.
In a report on Wednesday, ESCAP said that more than 180 gigawatts (GW) of capacity are under construction “despite the UN calling urgently for an end to coal-fired generation.”
ESCAP noted that Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Pakistan, the Philippines, the South Korea, and Vietnam continue to build coal-fired plants.
“This presents a serious risk of overinvestment and the potential creation of future stranded assets in a carbon constrained world,” ESCAP said.
The report noted that the Asia-Pacific region “is by far the largest user of coal,” accounting for about 80% of the world’s consumption in 2021.
The Department of Energy (DoE) estimated that as of July, the Philippines has a total coal installed capacity of 12,472 megawatts (MW).
To date, the Philippines also has coal power projects with a total capacity of 2,405 MW classified as “committed” — indicating firm arrangements for their financing — and 1,520 MW in “indicative” status.
In 2020, the DoE issued a moratorium on greenfield coal-fired power plants to accelerate the shift to a more flexible power mix.
Asked to comment, Gerry C. Arances, executive director of Center for Energy, Ecology, and Development, said in an e-mail that “the government continues to ignore the urgency of a coal phase-out by promoting only voluntary rather than mandatory phaseout and repurposing of existing plants as its approach.”
“The climate-aligned solution of shifting renewable energy is clearly within arm’s reach for the Philippines, with at least 5-5 GW of renewables about to come in through the Green Energy Auction Program alongside other favorable developments,” Mr. Arances said.
“Amid all these, coal becomes and increasingly undesirable power source — and the ESCAP hits the mark in warning of coal assets greatly risking stranding at this point,” he added.
The DoE has said that the Philippines is on track to hit its target to increase the share of renewable energy (RE) in its power generation mix to 35% by 2030 and to 50% by 2040.
At the end of 2022, RE accounted for 22.1% of the energy mix while coal made up 59.6%.
ESCAP said that successful energy transition will depend on “finding ways to manage the phase-out of existing coal-fired power.”
“Transforming the energy system to meet sustainability goals involves reducing reliance on fossil fuels — notably coal — in addition to scaling up clean energy in an inclusive manner,” ESCAP said.
Renewable energy production is the seventh of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The goal targets energy sustainability and energy access for all by 2030.
Of the 17 SDGs, the ESCAP said in its “Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report 2023” in March that the region has made the most progress on SDG 7, along with industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9).
“Delivering on the SDG 7 targets has been challenging but steady progress has been made by countries of the Asia-Pacific region,” the ESCAP Energy Division said in an e-mail to BusinessWorld. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera