BEHIND THE LINES: A gift to hug PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 02 August 2014 13:11

BY BOB JALDON

 

LOS ANGELES, CA — The Alsons Power Group, specifically through the San Ramon Power, Inc. (SRPI), is building a 100-megawatt coal power plant in Zamboanga hopefully before the end of the year that will supply sufficient, efficient and steady power for the next 25 years or so at low cost. The company has organized a series of fora the last two years, including public hearings, to explain to all sectors, the business community more precisely, why base-load power is cheaper than what we have now — a mix of hydro-electric and diesel plants.

As soon as the Energy Regulatory Board (ERC) approves the Power Supply Agreement (PSA) entered into between SRPI and the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ZAMCELCO), and the Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority (Zamboecozone) gets the concerned department to convert the land within the Zamboecozone where the plant is going to be built from agriculture to industrial, work on the project will immediately commence. This will so far be the biggest, single investment in Zamboanga since the Zamboecozone was established by law in 1995. This, too, will hopefully bring in the locators preferring to have constant and cheap power supply and a sound law and order environment.

Let me briefly diagram how coal-fired power plants in the United States work. Last year, coal power in the U.S. accounted for 39 percent of the country’s electricity production. Coal has been used to generate electricity in the U.S. since an Edison plant was constructed to serve New York city in 1882. The first alternating plant was operated by General Electric in Ehrenfield, Pennsylvania in 1902, providing power to Webster Coal and Coke Company. According to Wikipedia, coal had become the leading source for generating electricity in the U.S. in the mid-20th century.

At home, the Clean Air Act protects the environment from mercury pollution, smog and acid gas emissions. SRPI will, hence, introduce a modern plant that can capture carbon and significantly reduce dangerous smoke emissions. I’m pretty sure that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, after having approved SRPI’s Environmental Clearance Certificate (ECC), is in agreement that improved technology to bring down pollution and other environmental hazards will be in place, otherwise the proposal to build a coal-fired power plant in Zamboanga would have been drowned in the mud.

The U.S. still depends on coal plants. In 2009, there were 1,436 coal plants across the U.S. with a total nominal generating capacity of 338.732 GW (gigawatts), compared to 1,024 units at nominal 278 GW in 2000. Records show that the actual average generated power from coal in 2006 was 227.1 GW (1.991 trillion kilowatt-hours/year), the highest in the world and slightly higher than China’s 1.95 trillion kilowatts/year. In short, the coal plants account for 32 percent of the peak power production in the summer when electricity demand is the highest. The same situation happens in the Philippines, particularly Mindanao, when we have five to six rainless months that leave our hydro-electric plants totally useless that we become totally dependent on coal and diesel plants that do not generate enough electricity to satisfy the needs of Mindanao.

This is the main concern why we need SRPI’s power plant. Zamboanga cannot continue to buy expensive power to keep the city lighted at all times. We need cheap and reliable energy that SRPI can provide with the employ of technology guaranteed to reduce emissions as provided by law. SRPI’s plant should be a gift to hug.