The coronavirus pandemic has become the biggest global crisis in recent history. Yet, even when the world overcomes this, there are still others far greater looming in the horizon.

The World Bank has urged countries to accelerate and protect efforts to achieve affordable, reliable, and sustainable energy for all, in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 2030 targets. The call followed a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD), the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the report, significant progress had been made on various aspects of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 prior to the start of the COVID-19 crisis. This includes a notable reduction in the number of people worldwide lacking access to electricity, strong uptake of renewable energy for electricity generation, and improvements in energy efficiency. Despite these advances, global efforts remain insufficient to reach the key targets of SDG 7 by 2030.

“The energy sector has played a vital role in supporting the delivery of healthcare, remote working and many other needs. Like many other sectors, it has been strongly affected by the COVID-19 crisis,” the IEA wrote on its website.

The IEA predicts global energy demand to drop by around 6% in 2020 relative to 2019, with around 8% of the 40 million jobs directly provided by the energy sector at risk or have already been lost. Additionally, electricity from renewables could be the only energy source to grow in 2020, thanks to new capacity additions and priority dispatch.

“Attention is now turning to longer term recovery plans that seek to repair the economic damage being caused by COVID-19, minimize job losses among the 300 million jobs thought to be at risk globally, and help to create new jobs. Decisions made now will inevitably shape infrastructure and industries for decades,” the IEA added.

In the Philippines, key players in the energy industry are stepping up. One of them, Meralco PowerGen Corporation (MGen), has made a commitment to be part of a transition that will drive the country’s recovery post-pandemic.

MGen President and CEO Rogelio L. Singson

“The current situation underscores the importance of continuous, reliable, sufficient and cost-competitive electricity supply that is necessary to carry out the efforts to fight COVID-19 and help people to continue sustain their needs at the comfort of their homes,” said MGen President and CEO Rogelio L. Singson.

“As the power generation unit of Meralco, MGen’s core values and business strategy are aligned with One Meralco Group’s Sustainability Agenda which involves plans in the context of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with focus on Power, Planet, People and Prosperity,” he added.

The One Meralco Sustainability Agenda sets the direction in achieving business objectives while at the same time transforming the company’s operations, improving customer service, protecting the environment, and empowering its communities.

MGen’s role will focus on sustainable energy for the country’s future through the implementation of the energy transition plan that involves an environmentally conscious and diversified power generation portfolio that will utilize high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) technology and renewable energy (RE).

The company already laid the groundwork for this energy transition plan in 2019 with the its first operating HELE plant and its first solar investment.

In September 2019, the company started commercial operations of San Buenaventura Power Ltd. Co.’s (SBPL) 455-megawatt (MW) HELE coal-fired power plant. This supercritical power station is the first of its kind in the Philippines and the most advanced and most efficient operating coal plant in the country to date.

“We also hope to move forward with the construction of the bigger Atimonan power plant to provide 24/7 HELE baseload power; and as we raise the bar of operating efficient coal plants in the Philippines even higher, we will also be more aggressive on ‘greening’ our portfolio,” Mr. Singson said.

Ongoing construction of MGen’s 50-MWac solar farm in San Miguel, Bulacan

MGen is making serious strides on the RE front. In June 2019, the company incorporated MGen Renewable Energy, Inc. (MGreen) which serves as the platform for the company’s strategic push for the development of utility-scale solar, wind and hydro projects.

Through MGreen, the company targets about 1,000 MW of RE projects over the next five to seven years. The company’s first solar investment is a 50-MWac solar farm in Bulacan, which is currently ongoing construction and is expected to be completed in late 2020.

“We will develop more renewable projects and at the same time be conscious of our need to generate lowest cost electricity to reach the farthest communities in the country,” Mr. Singson promised.

“At MGen, we believe that we need a balanced and well-thought-out energy transition strategy. It will not happen overnight, but we are committed to make it happen,” he concluded.