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Advocates urge gov’t to tap ‘green energy’ for Mindanao

MANILA, Philippines—Renewable energy advocates and environmentalists are urging the government to harness the abundant “green” energy sources in Mindanao to solve the power shortage there.

Greenpeace on Monday said the Philippine government is missing an opportunity by failing to promote the use of renewable energy sources in Mindanao.

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Francis dela Cruz, Greenpeace energy campaigner, said: “Renewables should be pushed and the laws for it should be implemented.”

The Aquino government said it backs the roll-out of renewable energy technologies in the country. However, despite this pronouncement, it approved several contracts in 2011 for coal power plants, which run on fossil fuels to the disappointment of Greenpeace and other environmental groups.

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The government also reduced the allotment for solar energy sector to 50 megawatts from the original proposal of 150 MW. It brought down the target for wind power to 200 MW from the proposed 220 MW.

Dela Cruz noted that the Philippines has massive potential for including more renewable energy in the grid. In the case of Mindanao, the optimization of renewables should be coupled with managing the supply and demand efficiently, he added.

As the price of fossil fuel is seen to increase in the years to come, the Philippines has to wean itself from coal and oil-powered plants for electricity and instead invest in renewable technologies, said Dr. Joachim Spangeren of Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in a recent forum sponsored by Akbayan and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.

The Philippines has plenty of sources of renewable energy. It can harness the energy from the sun, wind, tides, geothermal, and biomass to meet the power demands of its growing population, Spangeren said. The Philippines has vast tracts of agricultural land, and sunny and wind-swept coasts for power, where renewable energy installations can be built, he said.

“As far as we can see, you have a broad mix, many possibilities,” he said.

Spangeren said wave energy could be used in the northern Philippines. Communities in the coasts and mountains could harness wind energy. Solar power, he said, could be harvested in many parts of the country.

Last year, the Department of Energy said the Philippines will target to increase RE-based power capacity by as much as 15,200 megawatts by 2030 to over 20,600 MW in installed capacity.

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This target will allow the country to have a power mix, in which RE resources will account for more than 50 percent. As of end 2010, total RE generation stood at 26.3 percent.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello renewable energy is critical in ensuring the Philippines’ energy independence. “Although we cannot discount the fact that speculation contributes a significant factor in driving up fossil fuel prices, we also have to admit that this resource is shrinking,” Bello said.

Renewable energy, he said, may be expensive at the beginning but it will be cheaper in the long run compared to plants that utilize fossil fuels. “Non-renewable energy is still more expensive because the financial costs of those health and environmental damage are rarely computed with the cost of constructing a coal-fired power plant,” Bello said.

Spangeren lamented that the government has yet to decide on the feed-in-tariffs for the renewable energy sector. The proposed numbers he saw on FIT showed that the rates for renewable are higher than the rates for the fossil fuel-ran plants. “That is not supporting renewable energy,” he said.

The power shortage in Mindanao has given nuclear energy advocates a chance to insert the nuclear option in the discussion after a year of silence due to the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco, who took over the seat of her husband, Mark, a nuclear energy advocate, urged the government to open the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

Cojuangco, in her twitter account, said it was a “no brainer” to use the power plant, adding that nuclear technology is “safe and clean.”

“If we decide to use the Bataan Nuclear Plant, we will have 650 MW of cheap electricity. That will bring in investors and boost our economy,” she added.

Commissioner Naderev Sano, of the Climate Change Commission, scoffed at the proposal to reopen the BNPP, noting that the prevalence of earthquakes in the Philippines makes it a very risky endeavor.

“It’s impossible,” he said. “We have seen what happened in Japan,” he added, referring to the destruction of the cooling reactors of the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima after the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami there last year.

Because of that catastrophe, which Japan is still struggling to contain, the Japanese government has started to move away from nuclear energy.

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TAGS: ‘green energy’, Bataan Nuclear Plant, Climate Change Commission, Department of Energy, Energy, energy source, environment, Environmental Politics, Government, Greenpeace, Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research, News, renewable energy, sustainable energy
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