If I were Anne this Christmas

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Friday, December 27, 2013

YES, that Anne, the Anne who can buy you, your friends, and a luxury club. She reportedly earned around 60 million this year alone.

If Santa were to give me all her money this Christmas day, I’d buy these:

I’d buy the best researchers.

The Department of Energy (DOE) statistics show the Philippines can be powered solely by its renewable energy resources. Our total potential capacity from wind, geothermal, hydro and ocean is 255,697 MW. As for solar, DOE says it’s 5.1 kilowatt-hour/m2/day. For my research paper at the Australian National University, I calculated the total deliverable capacity of these renewables (with the help of a PhD student studying renewables) and came up with a conservative estimate of 292,975 GWh. Compare that with 72,922 GWh, our total power consumption last year.

Since our highest potential capacity is in ocean energy at 170,000 MW, I want the researchers to verify this. And which ocean energy -- wave, tidal or thermal technology—would be more economically viable?

I also want the researchers to compare the economic costs between renewables and coal-fired power plants taking into consideration the discount rate—the benefits we get in the future for investing in renewables, the benefits of securing our energy supply instead of importing coal which makes us vulnerable to every dollar rate increase and to every dip in imported coal supply.

The research should also look at the benefits of learning curves. Investing in renewables early on can reduce the cost as technology matures. And what about the Malampaya fund and all the other international funds for clean energy, which could subsidize renewables?

Another concern is the 17 coal projects with a total estimated capacity of a staggering 11,000 MW, which is more than two thirds of our installed capacity. Are we are locking in our country to imported coal? How much would this cost us now and in the future?

And lastly, we should have our energy audit.

Do we use electricity mostly for cooling? What are the alternatives? Solar powered airconditioners? Passive cooling architecture? If it’s for mostly for mining, can we just ban mining? I wish. The idea is to manage demand first than unmindfully increasing the supply.

For all these questions, I want clear answers and numbers that are simple and memorable, so power companies and politicians can no longer ram “cheap coal” down our throats and get away with murder.

I’d buy organizers and campaigners.

The Sumilao farmers got back their 144 hectares of land not through the courts but by walking from Sumilao, Bukidnon to Malacañang. They did it through sheer commitment and determination and with the help of BALAOD, a small NGO. But their campaign so captured the nation’s imagination that by the time they landed in Luzon, all manners of support just kept pouring in.

The coal-fired plant issue affects poor and marginalized communities from Luzon to Mindanao. They have attended and organized countless of rallies to no avail. But those who oppose it also include the middle class and business people. Why can’t we get our acts together?

It’s been six years since the Sumilao Walk. It’s time for a new campaign to capture the hearts and minds of Filipinos.

I’d buy a solar photovoltaic company.

And include in its services, a rent-to-own solar systems for households, businesses, and government. My cousin in the US had such a system installed in her home. She pays $68 monthly for 15 years. She swears by it because, overall, her electricity bill plus the monthly rent is lower. Sometimes, she even earns credits from the electric company when her solar system produces more energy than she needs. This goes back to the grid for the electric company’s use.

Solar systems are not only clean and cheaper in the long run; we can have them now when we’re having brownouts in Mindanao and in preparation for an El Niño summer, which spells six to twelve hours brownout, only a few months from now. The earliest that committed coal plants can operate, on the other hand, will be by 2015-2016.

I think this business model can be an alternative to having all 17 coal fired plants.

If only I were Anne.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 27, 2013.


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