Energy chief: We should be more open to nuclear energy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 13) — The Philippines needs to diversify its sources of energy, including tapping nuclear power and reviving talks on oil and gas exploration with China, the country’s energy chief said on Monday.

“Diversification is key and therefore that’s why we should be more open even to nuclear energy because at this point, we really are not absolutely certain of which technology will be maturing at a faster way or will be there when we need it. So right now, we need all sources we can have,” Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said during a forum organized by the Makati Business Club.

Lotilla pointed out the supply deficit after losing 1,200 megawatts from the grid following the shutdown of the Ilijan natural gas-fired power plant since mid-2022.

The government hopes to plug the gap left by the Ilijan plant by June this year, especially as supply from the Malampaya natural gas facility cannot keep up.

The country has ventured into renewable energy, mainly hydropower and geothermal, he said.

“We cannot simply depend on one or several sources of energy. In the past, we were dependent on hydro and we were using hydro for our base load… at one point we had almost 50% of our total power sources from renewables and that’s because hydroelectric accounted for much of that and geothermal accounted for as much as 27% of the total power mix of the country. But the irony of it is when we introduced the Renewable Energy Act, geothermal went down,” Lotilla said.

Asked whether the government will recommission the long-mothballed Bataan nuclear power plant or opt for a modular nuclear facility, Lotilla said Congress is coming up with a legal and regulatory framework so that the Philippines will be compliant with international regulations.

“The president has made it clear that we will go by the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency and there are something like 19 requirements from womb to tomb. So you must address throughout the life cycle all these issues involving nuclear energy,” Lotilla said.

He added that any revival in negotiations with China for a joint exploration of the oil and gas basins in the West Philippine Sea will have to be governed by the Philippine Constitution.

“The president’s position is that the Constitution of the Philippines is non-negotiable. That is clear. That is our starting point. And therefore, negotiations whether bilateral or multilateral basis will have to be made from that standpoint,” he said.