Monday, July 10, 2006

Greenpeace: Shun coal power projects

By Katherine Adraneda
The Philippine Star

The international environment group Greenpeace has called on the government and various international funding institutions to tap the country’s vast renewable energy sources in place of coal.

Jasper Inventor, climate and energy campaigner of Greenpeace-Southeast Asia, said the government should include "clear and real intentions to a massive shift towards clean, renewable energy in the power sector" to achieve a "Green Philippines" in the next five years.

"The government should stop the construction and expansion of more coal plants in the country and initiate a massive shift to clean, renewable energy with a clear target of 10 percent of our total energy needs generated from sun, wind, and modern biomass by theyear 2010," he said.

Inventor said coal is the dirtiest and most pollutive fossil fuel because "from extraction to combustion, coal pollutes every step of the way."

"The acute and long-term environmental and social costs associated with coal usage make it an expensive and unacceptable option," he said.

"From acid drainage from coal mines, polluting rivers and streams, to the release of mercury and other toxins when it is burned, as well as climate-destroying gases and fine particulates that wreak havoc on human health, coal is unquestionably a dirty business," Inventor said.

Greenpeace said while President Arroyo has announced intentions for an energy efficient nation, "free from reliance on costly and exhaust-spewing cars and smokestacks," the government continues to back expansion and construction of coal-fired power plants.

The government is undertaking the privatization of the Masinloc coal-fired power plant.

Pollution caused by coal plants is also being blamed for the worsening climate change worldwide.

Dr. Leoncio Amadore, a former weather bureau director, said that most of the signals of climate change are already being felt in the Philippines.

These include the massive flooding and warming of the weather conditions, he added.

Fifty percent of the greenhouses gases contributing to the climate change come from the energy sector, Amadore said.

Citing studies abroad, Greenpeace International said the Philippines has a total of nearly 80,000-megawatt wind, biomass, and mini-hydro energy, as it likewise has a solar energy potential of 1,500 hours of power annually at five kilowatt-hour per square meter per day.

However, the Department of Energy (DOE) said the Philippines has a renewable energy potential of 40,000 megawatts.

Abigail Jabines, another climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace-Southeast Asia, said the Philippines is second in installed capacity of geothermal energy worldwide.

Quoting the DOE data, Jabines said that the country has a 4,790-MW potential reserve of geothermal energy.

She also said that 1,931 MW is installed out of the 2,047-MW proven geothermal energy.

"But the rest remain underdeveloped because of the absence of enabling policy and regulatory mechanisms to allow for the massive use of other renewable (energy)," she said. "Also, because of the DOE’s addiction to dirty energy sources such as coal."

Jabines said 26 percent of the existing installed energy capacity in the country is from coal with 3,967 MW.

The total existing installed capacity is at 15,547 MW, she added.

Jabines said oil energy sources comprise 24 percent or 3,669 MW of the existing installed energy capacity; hydrothermal with 21 percent or 3,217 MW; natural gas with 18 percent or 2,763 MW; and geothermal with 12 percent or 1,931 MW.

The country’s peak demand is 8,500 MW, she added.

Greenpeace said despite the country’s great renewable energy potential, the government and certain international funding institutions, including the Asian Development Bank (ADB), continue to support coal-fired power projects.

During its annual governors’ meeting last May, the ADB announced a $1-billion clean energy fund by 2008.

However, Greenpeace is unconvinced whether the funds would solely be dedicated to new renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, as the bank is also yet to prove that the amount is "new and additional" that it is going to displace future fossil fuel lending.

The total amount invested by ADB in fossil fuel projects between 2000 and 2006 was $1.54 billion or almost 26 percent of its energy portfolio, which amounts to $5.95 billion, Greenpeace added.

It also cited the ADB’s intention to fund the 400-megawatt expansion of the 600-megawatt Masinloc coal plant in Zambales.

Athena Ballesteros, Greenpeace international energy campaigner, has said the ADB defines renewable energy as "clean coal," geothermal and hydroelectric.

"Our challenge is for the ADB to put money where its mouth is," she said.

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