THE DEPARTMENT of Energy (DoE) may reclassify waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities as renewable energy (RE) units capable of supplying always-on baseload power.

The plans were flagged in a draft circular posted on the DoE’s website last week, outlining the department’s intent to promote the development of the WTE industry.

“This circular is being issued to… promote WTE facilities as baseload renewable energy which can contribute to solid waste management, benefit to the local economy, and create green jobs, among others,” the Energy department said.

The DoE is proposing to categorize WTE technology as “another kind of RE source.” WTE converts various types of waste material into usable heat, electricity or fuel.

According to its proposed circular, qualified generators using such technology should be considered “must dispatch” units in order to promote investment in WTE development.

Eligible RE plants are identified by the wholesale electricity spot market as “must dispatch” units that enjoy preference in the dispatch schedule.

The DoE said it will hold a series of public consultations on the draft WTE circular on Sept. 3, 6 and 8 for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao participants, respectively. All hearings will be held at 9 a.m.

Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technology President Riedo A. Panaligan said that the DoE’s proposed rules contradict current law.

“Promoting municipal solid waste (MSW) as feedstock for incineration (or) waste-to-energy goes beyond what is prescribed under the Renewable Energy Act. Burning of MSW also contradicts the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act that espouses source separation, segregated waste collection and treatment. These legal hurdles put participating parties, especially city governments and local government units, at risk for future lawsuits,” Mr. Panaligan told BusinessWorld in an e-mail Monday.

He said WTE is the most “inefficient and expensive way” to generate power, based on the experience of developed nations.

“Incineration, if categorized as renewable, will further compete with other genuine renewable energy projects such as solar, wind and biomass for already small incentive support and market share,” Mr. Panaligan added.

A Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) administrative order from 2019 details the requirements that must be met before a WTE plant can be built.

Last month, environment advocates and groups filed a petition with the Supreme Court to nullify the DENR’s guidelines on building WTE facilities, claiming that their implementation will cause “irreparable” harm to human health and the environment. — Angelica Y. Yang