Wake Up, Philippines!

Shift to CFLs, avert 2nd BNPP disaster

Posted in DOE, Energy, Environment, Social Issues/Concerns by Erineus on February 11, 2009

Recent environmental disasters around the world have only succeeded in driving home the urgency of addressing climate change and global warming — and the food security problem in their wake. Note the rampaging floods in Australia’s northeast and the killer bush fires in the south, the severe drought in central China and the snowstorms that recently battered the United Kingdom. These natural calamities are being blamed on climate change.

In an interview we taped for radio dzRH this Sunday at 8 p.m., Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change Heherson Alvarez stressed that increasingly severe natural disasters and the see-sawing of oil prices make it more imperative than ever to develop clean, renewable energy sources. But he also pointed out a most encouraging development: the successful founding conference and first session of the preparatory commission of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in Bonn, with the Philippines as one of the signatories.

After four years of global negotiations led by Germany, world leaders finally agreed to create this new international agency to push the development and use of renewable, climate and resource-friendly technologies throughout the world, such as wind, solar, hydropower and biomass energy. IRENA will act as a reliable advisor and partner for its members, networking closely with them, in the realization that, to quote Germany’s Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “only with global structures can the world achieve secure and sustainable energy supply.”

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Alvarez says Germany comes with good credentials to lead these efforts, and the Philippines, which is now being tempted to flirt not only with nuclear energy as a concept but with operating the defect-riddled “Monster of Morong,” could learn a lot from it. He notes that Germany is the world’s biggest user of wind energy, with 18,000 installed wind turbines contributing 6 percent to its total electric power.

Germany also accounts for 39 percent of the world’s total power from wind energy. It’s surpassing even the US in terms of producing power from renewable sources and is fast closing in on Japan as a leader in the use of solar power as well. Together, wind and solar energy provide more than 10 percent of Germany’s electricity and this is expected to double by 2020.

What’s good for developing countries like the Philippines to remember is that, as presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain repeatedly stressed in their campaign, there are plentiful jobs in these new energy forms. In Germany 60,000 people are employed in the design and manufacture of equipment for wind and solar energy.

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Alvarez joined the delegation led by Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, armed with Republic Act 9513, the Renewable Energy Act, signed last month by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and said to be the most comprehensive renewable energy law in Southeast Asia. It aims to accelerate the exploration and development of renewable energy sources.

Right now, there’s the Bangui Bay Project in Ilocos Sur province, the first commercial capacity wind farm not just in the Philippines but in Southeast Asia, with a 33 megawatt-capacity equivalent to the reduction of 62,951 tons of greenhouse emission gases per year. Moreover, the Philippine delegation carried President Arroyo’s support for an 80-percent reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, first expounded by Alvarez at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznan last December.

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For the Philippines, the founding of IRENA is timely. As Alvarez puts it, “Hopefully it would draw us away from the temptation of using ‘Star Trek’-like technologies’ like nuclear power, and develop instead alternative energy sources of which we have a lot.” Speaking of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which a group of House members wants to operate without considering its state of unfitness, Alvarez opines that if the nation were to shift to CFL bulbs for light, which is a $31-million project now being implemented by the Department of Energy through a loan from the Asian Development Bank, about 500 megawatts of electricity would be saved each year, which is nearly equal to the BNPP’s capacity, but without the problems of site dangers, expensive fuel, waste disposal, decommissioning, etc. I suggest that Alvarez begin his campaign for renewable energy in homes, schools, offices, civic clubs and the media with the punch-line: “A shift to CFLs helps avert BNPP’s second disaster. “

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Last Tuesday, I wrote about the Cebu-based Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom (WIL) which has undertaken the “aesthetic enhancement” of the Cebu City landscape. Their major project is to clean up and restore Colon Street, the country’s oldest street, founded by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in 1565. Networking with the old families in Colon, WIL put up 52 historical markers that are now part of its “Heritage Walking Tour,” at a cost of P15,000 per marker with lamppost.

An example is the marker in front of Mariano Albao Cuenco’s residence, Imprenta Rosario, which details how he founded the Cuenco newspaper dynasty with his “Ang Camatuoran” (The Truth). With Mariano’s early death in 1909, his widow, Doña Remedios Diosomito Cuenco, took over the family printing press on the ground floor of their Sanciangco Street residence and reared children who became publishers in their own right: the future Archbishop Jose Ma. Cuenco, the future Sen. Mariano Jesus Cuenco and Rep. Miguel Cuenco. From this clan also sprang Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco.

Intramuros could also use similar markers memorializing the lives and achievements of many illustrious families who resided in the Walled City, never mind if World War II destroyed virtually all their homes.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:51:00 02/12/2009