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Passage of Waste-To-Energy bill should be prioritized

SAN JOSE CITY NUEVA ECIJA, Philippines – A worker unloads a truckload of rice husks at San Jose City I-Power, a waste-to-power plant that can generate 9.9-megawatts of electricity that uses alternative fuel, as seen in this 23 June 2018 file image. Senate Committee on Energy chairman Senator Win Gatchalian has vowed to prioritize the passage of Waste-to-Energy Act (WTE Act), which he filed, to support the growth of WTE in the country. Photo by MARK CAYABYAB/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian has committed to champion the creation of a regulatory framework for waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies in the 18th Congress, in line with the Duterte administration’s thrust to advance renewable energy in the country.

Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, has shown particular interest with the economics of WTE, believing that this would redound to the benefit of the nation through a more secure energy system, and the environment through a more sustainable power generation sector and waste management system.

It can be recalled that during his fourth State of the Nation Address, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to fast-track the development of renewable energy sources, and reduce dependence on traditional energy sources.

Gatchalian pointed out that Republic Act (RA) No. 9513, otherwise known as the Renewable Energy (RE) Act of 2008, mandates the DOE to encourage the adoption of WTE facilities and to consider biodegradable organic fractions of industrial and municipal wastes as part of biomass resources.

However, the lawmaker lamented that the WTE facilities are almost negligible in the energy mix with only 13.83 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity and a mere 26.48MW of committed or indicative capacity since the enactment of the RE Act more than a decade ago.

To address these problems, Gatchalian has vowed to prioritize during the 18th Congress the passage of Senate Bill No. 363 or Waste-to-Energy Act (WTE Act), which he filed, to support the growth of WTE in the country. The bill, in a nutshell, seeks to provide a framework for the entire value chain of WTE facilities, and, in turn, ensure the uninterrupted supply of waste as feedstock.

The measure mandates a WTE strategy in the national, provincial, and solid waste management plans and authorizes local government units to enter into cooperative undertakings, joint ventures, and other similar modalities for WTE generation facilities.

SBN 363 will require standards, criteria, guidelines, and formula in computing for a fair, equitable, and reasonable tipping charge for WTE facilities, taking into consideration the cost of construction, operation, and maintenance of the facility, and the potential revenue from the sale of energy output, such as electric power, refuse-derived fuel, and biogas.

The WTE Act also assures continued incentives for LGUs under RA 9003, biofuel plants under RA 9637, and renewable energy power plants under RA 9513 when it comes to the construction, operations, and maintenance of WTE facilities.

Gatchalian also recently met with stakeholders to discuss how the Senate may help jump start the WTE industry and make it sustainable in the country.

“During our informal meeting with stakeholders, we identified financial viability and sustainability as the main problems that the WTE industry faces,” Gatchalian said.

“Financial viability is an issue because it is very expensive to build these facilities and the ‘tipping fee’ or garbage processing fee paid by Local Government Units (LGUs) is too low.  If the tipping fee is low, the price of the output (electricity, fuel, or gas) is too high,” he said.