Sun, wind, waves way to go for power, say green advocates
Instead of pushing for coal power plants and fossil fuels, the government should harness renewable energy (RE) from the sun, the wind and the tides, as well as geothermal and biomass sources, to solve the power shortage in Mindanao, green energy advocates and environmental groups said Monday.
“Renewables should be pushed and the laws for them implemented,” Greenpeace energy campaigner Francis de la Cruz said, noting that despite a government pronouncement that it would push renewable energy technologies, it approved several contracts in 2011 for coal-fired power plants that run on fossil fuels.
The government has also reduced the allotment for the solar energy sector to 50 megawatts from the original proposal of 150 MW and brought down the target for wind power to 200 MW from the proposed 220 MW, the group said.
De la Cruz said the Philippines had massive potential for including more renewable energy in the grid. In the case of the Mindanao power shortage, he said, maximizing renewables should be coupled with managing the supply and demand efficiently.
The switch to renewable energy in the face of rising fuel prices was discussed as well in a recent forum sponsored by Akbayan and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. The Philippines has to wean itself from coal- and oil-powered plants for electricity and instead invest in renewable technologies, Dr. Joachim Spangeren of the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research said.
The Philippines can harness energy from the sun, the wind and the tides and from geothermal and biomass sources to meet the power demands of its growing population, Spangeren said. The country also has vast tracts of agricultural land as well as sunny and windswept coasts for power where renewable energy installations can be built, he added.
“As far as we can see, you have a broad mix (of RE sources and) many possibilities,” Spangeren said, noting that wave energy could be used in the northern Philippines while coastal and mountain communities could harness wind energy. Solar power, he added, could be harvested in many parts of the country.
Akbayan party-list Representative Walden Bello said renewable energy was critical to ensuring the Philippines’ energy independence. “Although we cannot discount the fact that speculation contributes … to driving up fossil fuel prices, we also have to admit that this resource is shrinking,” Bello said.
Cheaper in long run
Although renewable energy may be expensive initially, it is cheaper in the long run compared to plants that utilize fossil fuels, the party-list representative said. “Nonrenewable energy is still more expensive because the financial costs of health and environmental damage are rarely computed (in) the cost of constructing a coal-fired power plant,” Bello said.
The power shortage in Mindanao has given advocates for nuclear energy another chance to push for the operation of the mothballed Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) after a year of being silent following the Fukushima disaster in Japan.
Pangasinan Representative Kimi Cojuangco, who took over the seat of her husband Mark, urged the government to open the BNPP, saying in her Twitter account that nuclear technology is “safe and clean.” She added: “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.”
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