Greenpeace slams use of coal for power


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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  • vlxcy

    Unless you can make the cost of alternative energy sources competitive to coal, coal will always be the primary option. Additionally, with more advanced coal power technologies now available, which reduce the impact of coal power plants on environment, even Japan, Korea and Germany are going back to coal. Just google “Japan/Korea/Germany coal energy” and you’ll find tons of literature as to why they are going back to the traditional energy source. They would also enlighten you about the technical details of coal-fired power plant operations. 

    Typically institutions like Greenpeace would exaggerate their claims – imprinting in the minds of the public the image of a coal power plant in 1960/70s with very black smoke from the emission pipes as if things never progressed when it comes to pollution technology.

    Also, power cost in the country is exhorbitantly high. In some areas, power is even intermittent. So people would normally have limited options in terms of business and jobs. External investments (both foreign and domestic) don’t come into those places as well. What the Philippines needs right now is cheap energy source so long as it is properly monitored.

    • buttones

      Exactly so- well said

    • Islaslolo

      Do you think the Philippines will implement the advanced coal technologies in order to mitigate the pollution and waste products of conventional coal?

      Wind now is almost comparable to conventional coal in terms of total system cost without the concomitant pollution and waste disposal problems of coal. Advanced coal technologies and pollution mitigation are very expensive propositions for the Philippines.

  • buttones

    Well whether Greenpeace like it or not, [and I have to say I have been a member of Greenpeace since 1989.] but demand and use of fossil fuel over the next twenty years shows an increase in coal, oil is a bit lower and gas is about the same but the whole basket adds up to over 85%. The balance of hydro, nuclear, other solid fuels and renewable is barely on the chart, [Wood Mackenzie Energy Market Service] One by one– this wind turbine idea, is only 30% efficient, and is supposed to feed our grid system, but NOT during times of need like a typhoon for example, then it has to be closed down- we cannot store this energy, and not only that these turbines, claimed to have a life of twenty years appears not to be true either- it’s about 12 years. They are ugly as well. Next- solar- good idea, but again after 15 years all you have left is a load of scrap, that’s the life of it- this is very expensive proposition at this time in our development. Bio fuel? Well if we have enough land maybe- but we don’t -we can barely feed ourselves. Geo thermal? Well that takes enormous quantities of water as well, and nobody knows the effect of this either, and it’s localized anyway. Nuclear power? Sitting on a fault line? Might work, talk to the geologists, I really don’t know. And I might add, apart from local problems of health and water usage, which I assume is recovered for the most part by cooling towers, many of these things can be mitigated. If Greenpeace are concerned about PH contribution to this ’global warming’ well even they cannot calculate our contribution, it’s basically nothing, the USA, or North America, India, EU, Russia and of course China are the filthiest nations on the planet and make up 80% of the whole problem- Give us a break for God’s sake!

  • dikoy321

    Views from Germany:

    Coal will POLLUTE the environment and make inhabitants SICK or SICKLY from the dust particles and the its waste product that will go back to Nature !

    NOT TRUE that Germany is going back to Coal !  It’s the Coal industry that is pushing for it, but the majority of the German population are against !

    I’ve been here in Germany much longer than my 27 yrs in the Philippines, read the weekly “Der Spiegel”, watch daily ARD/ZDF news and is active Fil-German community leader.

    The NEGATIVE IMPACT of Coal will HIT the Philippines much HARDER, knowing HOW LAX we are with present environmental laws !

    German homes have solar power generators and their roofs have those much longer than 15 yrs, considering that SUNNY weather in this country is about three months, sometimes even less !

    In decision-making, consider the Population’s HEALTH, the SUN is present/SHINING daily (typhoons are not there everyday and go away too!), strong typhoons cannot destroy Wind generators (my farmer brother-in-law has a 40 foot Wind generator on his farm, there since 1980s, still WORKING!), and foremost, ECOLOGY !

    Who wants to go home to a HEAVILY-POLLUTED land ?


    Forward Philippines, with SOLAR Power and WIND Power !!! 

    • ChL

      I agree with buttones and vlxcy. Let’s demarcate facts from sentiments. Certainly there are quarters in Germany that do not support coal. Coal is after all typically associated with everything that’s dirty. But there are others who are for it as well mainly because its cheaper and less riskier than nuclear. As noted, with the advent of more sophisticated techs to reduce emission threats, it is also arguably relatively greener now than before. Companies or industries also cannot just simply push themselves into government’s throats if the government does not allow it – not Germany.

      Now, let’s look at the hard data, here are some numbers from US Energy Information Administration’s website.

      Power Generation by source, in billion KWh, Germany
                                                                 2009             2011
      Total Gross Generation                       553.80          577.02
      Total Net Generation (net HPS)            552.24          575.55
        1. Nuclear                                        128.19          102.57
        2. Total renewables (inc. Hydro)           99.27          127.28
            Of which:
            2.1 Hydro                                       18.47            18.19
            2.2 Wind                                         38.64            46.50
            2.3 Solar/Tide/Wave                           6.58            19.00
            2.4 Others                                          …                 …
        3. Conventional Thermal (mostly coal)   326.34          347.17
        4. Others                                               …                 …
      *HPS – Hydroelectric power storage

      Clearly, Germany is presently very much dependent on coal and other fossil fuels for its energy requirements. Conventional thermal accounts for three-fifths of the total net electricity generation of the country. There’s also a marginal increase in its share to total generation — from 58.9 in 2009 to 60.2% n 2011.

      Additionally, this report.. http://www(dot)bloomberg(dot)com/news/2013-02-27/germany-to-add-most-coal-fired-plants-in-two-decades-iwr-says.html  ; [replace (dot) with “.” because links are not allowed here] from bloomberg just over a week ago suggests that the share of conventional power source like coal will only increase in the coming years.

      Indeed, regardless of the sentiments of some groups, present information indicates that Germany is leaning more towards coal/conventional source than any other energy source to supply its future energy needs.

      • Islaslolo

        Let us see what Germany’s energy profile will be 5 years from now.

    • Islaslolo

      I totally agree with you. Going solar, wind and the other renewables will create the needed jobs in the Philippines. Geothermal, which we have a lot of potential, is also a good source for our energy and it can be renewable too by a water injection process.

      I had a conversation with a German engineer in January in one of the professional (IEEE) meetings I participate in. He told me, as you have already explained, that Germany has a timetable to decommission all of its nuclear plants and go solar and wind in the long run. This is creating a lot of jobs in Germany together with their research and development in large scale energy storage batteries to augment the viability of solar and wind energy resources.

      There were other discussions we had but it would be too technical, at this time, to describe them here. He gave me a USB flash drive that contain the German energy program. It would be instructive for our policy makers and investors like the Lopezes and the Aboitizes, among others, to understand the German initiative and their program for energy independence. The Germans call it “Energiewende” which my colleague said had no direct translation yet in English.

      Let us go Energiewende too for a prosperous and sustainable Philippines.

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