SOLAR ENERGY could become the dominant resource of prospective power plant projects in the coming years with a 17.9% share, outpacing coal-fired facilities’ 17.15%, according to the latest data from the Department of Energy (DoE).

This is the picture of the country’s future new power plants if the project proposals — or what the department calls “indicative” projects — reach financial closing or if they have forged bank financing to proceed to construction.

Based on submissions to the DoE as of August, renewable energy taken as a whole will account for the bulk at 20,876.4 megawatts (MW), or 32% of the total indicative projects at 63,383.6 MW.

Renewables consist of geothermal, hydropower, biomass, solar and wind energy.

However, the DoE has been saying that indicative projects may not turn into “committed” projects, or those that are able to reach a financial close.

Still, the figures are a departure from the country’s capacity mix, which as of June 2019 was dominated by coal with a 39.2% share in terms of installed capacity and 41.2% in dependable capacity. The combined share of renewables as of midyear was at 30.4% in terms of installed capacity and 31% in dependable capacity.

DoE officials did not immediately respond when asked about factors behind the bigger share of solar among indicative projects, but they had pointed to new regulations boosting the development of renewable energy.

Earlier this month, DoE Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella said the department removed the pre-development phase for solar farms, cutting the completion time for such projects. “For as long as you get a possessory right on top of a rooftop or in a water area or in a hydro facility… build it,” Mr. Fuentebella explained. “You don’t have to own it.”

“They have to submit a possessory rights on the contract area that they are going to develop so they will start with construction immediately,” said Marissa P. Cerezo, a director at the DoE’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau.

The DoE data also show natural gas accounting for the third-biggest share at 13.82%, outpacing hydropower’s 8.02%.

Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao present indicative power plant projects that are dissimilar to each other. In Mindanao, for instance, the proposed projects in the coming years will be dominated by coal-fired facilities at 42.3% of the total, with hydroelectric power and solar farms trailing with a share of 27.1% and 25.7%, respectively. — Victor V. Saulon