Greenpeace slams use of coal for power

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MANILA, Philippines—The environmental group Greenpeace has once again asked the government to reconsider its renewable energy options, saying the use of coal-fired technology was not the solution to the “looming power crisis” in Mindanao.

“Coal is the worst answer to the Mindanao power situation,” Beau Baconguis, Greenpeace Program Manager for the Philippines, said in a statement.

“It’s a short-term, short-sighted solution. It will compromise the island’s agricultural productivity, cause health problems for nearby communities, and will also lead to water shortages in the future,” she said.

Greenpeace reiterated its appeal to President Benigno Aquino to usher in clean, green renewable energy and reject harmful coal-fired plants. The environment group’s call came amid reports of an impending power crisis in Mindanao, based on a study released last week by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

Current Department of Energy plans for Mindanao are designed to promote the use of coal power, and several coal-fired plants are set to be operational by 2015, according to Greenpeace.

But coal and its negative side effects will only worsen Mindanao’s power woes in the long run, as opposed to renewable energy, which is good for the environment and business, Baconguis said.

Mindanao, which relies on hydro-electric power, faces energy shortages during the dry season due to lower water levels in its lakes and rivers, Greenpeace noted.

“However, coal-fired power plants are huge water guzzlers. The 300 megawatt plant being built by Aboitiz Power in Davao City is located on top of an aquifer in Binugao, Toril, and is projected to use around 1,500 cubic meters of fresh water daily for cooling, inducing saltwater intrusion into Davao’s water source, and compounding water shortage,” it said.

Greenpeace argued that the country’s renewable energy sources could provide more than enough energy to power industries throughout the country.

Solar energy potential alone in Mindanao is calculated at 4.5-5.5 kWh/m2/day, it said, adding that wind potential is also high along the coastal areas of the island.

“Investing in coal and diesel plants today will lock out massive renewable energy investments in Mindanao,” said Baconguis.

“Compared to coal and diesel, renewable energy facilities can be deployed faster and also provides jobs that do not sacrifice the environment and the workers’ health. It therefore makes more business sense,” she said.

Early this year, Greenpeace released a report titled “Green is gold: How renewable energy can save us money and generate jobs.”

The group said the report was able to prove that it was possible to generate jobs without the environmental and health impacts attendant to coal and other fossil fuel sources.

“By speeding up the processes and increasing the targets for investments in renewable energy, the Aquino administration can spark the much needed energy revolution in the country,” Baconguis said.

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