Coal energy

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Monday, August 25, 2014


WHAT'S the highest exportable product we have in Western Visayas? Sugar? Molasses? Marine products? If we’re talking of Negros Occidental, you’re warm. Raw sugar is tops for the province.

Otherwise, from the standpoint of Western Visayas (the province still belong to Region VI, last I checked), its unrefined coal from the Semirara Island in northern Antique.

“Total export of Western Visayas continued to increase, from 3 million metric tons in 2011 to 3.4 million MT in 2012, posting an increment of 14.0 percent. In 2013, an increase of 9.4 percent was recorded with a total export of 3.7 million MT,” said the Bureau of Customs and the Philippine Statistics Authority-National Statistical Coordination Board (PSA-NSCB).

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That’s the good news. The bad news is that the region imports high grade coal. “A total of 390,221 MT of high grade quality coal were imported from other countries to meet the required quality standard of some industries and power plants. Coal importation in 2013 was almost five times higher than the 2011 coal importation,” the PSA-NSCB report said.

Lately, Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) will jack up its electric rates this month. Since the power utility accesses its power from Kepco, which in turn relies on imported coal, we can understand our power price increases. Economic exposure matters to imported coal impacts on Ceneco – and the Metro Bacolod consumers as well.

When PNoy led the inauguration of the 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in 2011, he promised the Visayas area with reliable and affordable electricity.

“Kepco today provides 11 percent of the country’s generation capacity, which, I am sure, will rise in the coming months with this inauguration. This power plant will make certain energy requirements in this part of our country will be met,” Aquino said.

Western Visayas’ total importation increased by 74.5 percent in 2012 and a meager increment of 3.7 percent in 2013 due to the growing demand for high grade quality coal.

“Reliable,” as in intermittent brownouts? “Affordable,” he said? Ceneco lowered its residential power rate by almost P0.16 centavos in June only after increasing by 22 centavos its May residential rate and in April, by 46 centavos.

Obviously, coal-fired power plants are not even cheaper, the argument raised by PNoy why the focus is not on renewables but on fossil fuels.

Who can forget Aquino’s line of reasoning? “If you put up a wind-powered plant, what do you do when there is no wind? If you put up a solar plant, what do you when the sky is cloudy? Let me be clear: I believe in renewable energy and we support its use, but there should also be base load plants that can ensure a steady supply of electricity for our homes and industries. I wonder if those who are critical of the plants we want to put up will be as noisy when they are busy fanning themselves during brownouts. All I am really saying is this: Let us help each other find a solution.”

Ceneco is proving PNoy wrong. Residential rates are going up, and the coal-fired plants are increasing greenhouse gases that worsen climate change.

And oh, who benefited from the region’s Semirara coal? Surprise, but not really surprising. The major export destinations in 2013 were China (85.7 percent), Thailand (11.1 percent) and India (3.2 percent).

In fact, industrialized countries such as the US (coal consumption reduced by 176 million metric tons per year over the period 2000-2012), Canada (reduced by 21 million tons per year) and Spain (20 million tons per year). Even China is aiming to get less than 65 percent of its energy from coal in 2014.

It’s about time Ceneco hitch its wagon to renewables. There is the world of solar to prepare for as prices for the installation of its infrastructure goes down. Metro Bacolod – and the world – will be better off away from climate-change inducing greenhouse gases from coal.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 25, 2014.

Opinion

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