What should the government do to solve power shortages? Forget emergency powers for the President. Forget about buying or renting generator sets. Think long term.
Shortages in electricity that have triggered rotating brownouts in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao cannot be solved with patchwork and quick fix solutions that have failed in the past.
Even as new power plants are in the pipeline the government must look toward the future of power generation. Indeed, such a future is already here.
More electricity could be generated without the need for dirty coal-fired power plants. There are sustainable energy policies we could adopt that are more likely to succeed since they maximize our country’s natural resources and create cost-cutting alternatives.
The World Bank reported in 2010 that electricity production in the Philippines from coal sources was 26.61 percent compared to other energy sources in 2009. Projections from various data banks said our country’s coal consumption has gone up as the government struggled to solve the country’s power shortages.
What we need are modern, cleaner and greener energy services. The Philippines has the Renewable-Energy Law of 2008. So why focus on carbon-emitting, climate-changing fossil fuel-based energy plants? Focus instead on renewable energy sources.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Chapter 2 (Asia’s Energy Challenge) of its recently released 317-page report Asian Development Outlook 2013, urged Asian countries to deliver energy to all its citizens while scaling back its reliance on fossil fuels.
According to the report, Asia must change the way it consumes energy and start using clean-energy sources or suffer the human, economic and environmental consequences of its voracious appetite for fossil fuels by 2035.
By that year, the continent’s oil consumption will double, natural gas consumption will triple and coal consumption will rise to a whopping 81 percent.
“Asia could be consuming more than half the world’s energy supply by 2035, and without radical changes, carbon- dioxide emissions will double,” ADB chief economist Changyong Rhee said.
“In the Philippines, the contribution of renewables will shrink from 43 percent in 2010 to 14 percent in 2035, by which time proven indigenous gas and coal reserves will be depleted,” the ADB report said.
“Effective government leadership can mobilize behavior change in firms and households. The lesson for Asian governments is that they must take the lead in changing the mindset and culture of their citizens so that they use energy more efficiently and thus do their part to promote Asia’s energy security,” it said.
This our government must do now, not later. It need not look far. In the present Congress, for instance, are several bills meant to promote the use of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, ocean energy and hydrogen.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has Senate Bill No. 566 that would create the Solar Initiative Commission which would promote the use of solar energy systems in our country. Indeed, why not harness solar power since the Philippines is blessed with abundant sunlight. Solar power is inexhaustible, cheap and environmentally safe.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has SB No. 408 or the Hydrogen Research and Promotion Development Act, which would “identify potential areas for development of hydrogen” and “encourage the invention of machinery, equipment, vehicles…powered by hydrogen.”
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV has two bills seeking to establish separate development authorities for wind energy and ocean energy.
“Since ocean energy is a relatively new technology in the country, its potential as an economical, safe and efficient energy source is generally unknown to the consuming public,” he said explaining SB No. 645.
In SB No. 646, Trillanes seeks to promote wind energy, citing Bangui, Ilocos Norte as a “shining example in the Asian region of how to properly utilize wind energy.”
He said the town had been experiencing power outages until it turned to wind energy through the Burgos Wind Project of the Energy Development Corporation.
EDC has increased the Burgos Wind Project’s total generating capacity to 150 megawatts (MW) from 87 MW. The Burgos Wind Project is now the largest wind farm in the Philippines, costing approximately $300 million. Once fully operational it can supply the Luzon grid with clean, sustainable wind energy, approximately 233 GWh annually, powering over a million households.
The project will generate a significant number of jobs, boost economic activity in the host province, and contribute to the national effort to develop clean and green energy resources and reduce dependence on imported oil.
Indeed, the installation of wind turbines in Burgos, Ilocos Norte has been so successful that the local government is exploring the possibility of setting up a solar project there, again with EDC’s help, in the sunny village of Saoit.
In Currimao town, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has also recently approved a 60-hectare forestland for solar energy development in barangays Bimmanga and Salindeg-Paguludan.
These projects prove that the government, through the help of the private sector, can provide clean and affordable energy to Filipinos and that such renewable energy projects increase investors’ confidence because they are cheaper and cleaner.
With cheaper, cleaner, greener power come more investors and also more new jobs.