The Philippines has announced plans to boost coal-fired power capacity by more than 25 per cent in just three years.
Roughly a third of the country's power capacity of nearly 18,500MW already uses coal as fuel, but according to an updated list of power projects published by the Philippine Department of Energy, a further 25 coal-fired power stations are in the pipeline with capacity totalling to 12,200MW.
The move is seen as a cheap solution to the country's precarious power supply, but the Philippines is highly reliant on foreign coal - imports soared to a record 15.2 million tonnes last year - to keep the stations going, raising concerns about energy security.
"A significant portion of our electricity market is dependent on imported coal from Indonesia. I'm worried about our energy security being put in the hands of another country," said Vincent Perez, a former Philippine energy secretary who is now the CEO of wind power developer Alternergy Partners.
Twelve of the proposed coal plants with a total capacity of 3,400MW are already under construction, and are slated to be completed by 2018. Those plants require at least 10 million tonnes of coal a year, industry estimates show.
Domestic coal is primarily supplied from mines owned by Semirara Mining and Power Corp, but the bulk of that used in generation comes from Indonesia, the Philippine's traditional main supplier, alongside smaller contributions from Australia, Vietnam and China.
The drive to boost coal-power is likely to hit green energy projects promoting solar, wind, hydro and geothermal energy, which have been grappling with high initial expenses and red tape.
But Theresa Cruz-Capellan, chief executive of SunAsia Energy and president of the industry group Philippine Solar Power Alliance, said the additional coal-fired power plants should not be seen as lost opportunity for renewable-energy investors.
"By the time they have built those coal-fired plants, we believe there will be additional demand and we can install additional capacity in just six months," she said.