Why coal when renewable energy is feasible?
BY: ERROL A. GATUMBATO
It is very interesting that San Carlos City in northern Negros Occidental province is now maximizing the potential of renewable energy as a major source of power. In fact, it is not only San Carlos that will benefit from it, because it is expected that the energy produced in the three renewable energy plants in the city will also be fed into the national power grid. This leads me to ask why some local officials are still promoting and insisting on the development of non-renewable coal-fired energy plants when, in fact, renewable energy is feasible in Negros Occidental?
The construction of the 35-hectare solar farm is now ongoing and it is expected to produce 22 megawatts of electricity. As the name itself implies, solar energy is sourced from sunlight and it is considered as one of the cleanest sources of energy that will not contribute to carbon emission. The two other power plants in San Carlos City are the bio-ethanol and the biomass plants. Although the bio-ethanol plant primarily produces ethanol (a biofuel mixed with gasoline for cars) out of sugarcane, it can also generate electricity. On the other hand, the biomass power plant uses wastes from sugarcanes to produce electricity.
Coal is considered a non-renewable resource because it is only good for as long as its supplies last. The burning of coal to produce energy is known to tremendously emit carbon in the atmosphere, which is not only detrimental to the environment, but to the health of the people, too. It is therefore necessary that officials, from the province to cities and towns in Negros Occidental, reconsider their position in energy development.
The Environment Code of Negros Occidental, that was enacted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in 2005, clearly provides that the energy development in the province “shall be pursued in a manner that will not degrade the state of the environment.” This is stipulated in Section 80 of the Code that further states, “As such, preference will be on the development of renewable power sources.”
The Code envisioned that Negros Occidental should be supplied 100 percent with renewable energy that would lead to the decommissioning of non-renewable energy plants in the province. I am not sure if the provincial government has already mapped out potential sources of renewable energy in Negros Occidental. The Environment Code mandates that one year after its enactment, the province shall prepare a map of potential renewable energy sources. It also stipulates, “Based on the data available, a renewable energy development plan shall be prepared primarily to identify the areas and communities that can be serviced adequately by renewable energy sources and to identify the strategy to tap potentials.”
At this point in time, when the use of carbon and other greenhouse gases is being discouraged, and, in fact, should be eliminated, it is only logical that potential sources of renewable energy be identified and sourced. These gases constitute the volume of emission in the atmosphere and destroy the ozone layer, which shields the Earth from the direct heat of sunlight and helps regulate the climatic pattern of the world. Unfortunately, the damage to the ozone layer is already irreversible and it is being viewed as one major factor that contributes to the phenomenon of climate change. (This article was also published in the Visayan Daily Star, 06 January 2014 issue)*
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