Power surge PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 19 August 2016 12:02

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

Los Angeles, CA. — As Zamboanga fights for sufficient and efficient power supply for the next 20 or so years with the mediate construction of a 105-megawatt coal-fired power plant in San Ramon, it is good to know a few things about coal plants. Elinando B. Cinco wrote last August 14 about some of the good effects of coal given its discharges of solid wastes and emissions. He said that coal plants produce considerable amount of greenhouse gas emissions. It also uses lots of water to turn turbines and coal thermoelectric plants emit air pollutants, produces leachate and generates ash.

He continues, though: “But coal plants could be retrofitted to increase efficiency. There are also ‘clean coal’ technologies that could be adopted such as supercritical land ultra-supercritical integrated gasification, combined cycle fluidized bed combustion which could lower emissions.

“The government of President Duterte seems to be on the right track. Based on Secretary Cusi’s recent pronouncements, it is bent on mapping out a policy direction that pushes for the compatibility of energy objectives with those of our commitments to improve also the health and environmental sectors — and this necessitates moving away from the predominant bias of Philippine energy policy towards ‘technology neutralization.’

“Of course, those arguing against coal will cite the number of its residual elements. But it must also be emphasized that new development studies and science and technology are well on their way to producing so-called ‘clean coal.’

“In five years, we will see the completion of 5,000 megawatts in the power generating capacity of existing coal-fired power plants. Or, if they become completely operational — 11,992 megawatts. (That’s a lot, damas y caballeros.)

“Today, even the ordinary man on the street is beginning to realize that science and technology have transformed coal away from its villain role in the annals of environmental conservation and protection.

“Significantly, those efforts have corrected the old misconception and have now enlightened the public, and even the realm of cyberspace, meaning the social media.

“After six years of hemming and hawing under (president) Aquino, it is refreshing to have a government that is genuinely interested in triggering a rigorous dialogue on coal, and keep it going, so that the country could finally strike the balance it is aiming for in achieving sustainable development.”

Well said, Mr. Cinco. Bear in mind that the planned coal-fired power plant in San Ramon that will be built and operated by the San Ramon Power, Inc. (SRPI) will have the latest technology to produce steam and electricity. According to Engineer Ben Conti of SRPI, the technology is known as the fluidized bed combustion that guarantees that the exhaust gas are way below the levels set by the Clean Air Act.

This technology was well explained during two public fora in Zamboanga to concerned citizens pessimistic about the operation of a coal plant.

But there’s a greater concern that must be immediately addressed. I’m not poking the hornet’s nest, but the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ZAMCELCO)  will go down burning unless the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and ZAMCELCO approve the Terms of Reference (TOR) that will serve as basis for the bidding of an Investment Management Contract (IMC) that will manage the operational and financial affairs of ZAMCELCO for the next 20 years or so.

Mira ustedes, ZAMCELCO is losing money in the millions of pesos monthly because of interests alone on its staggering debts and system’s loss of more than 22 percent (which is passed on the consumers). It cannot sustain its daily operations or meet its financial obligations because it is in the RED (YELLOW in NEA’s standards). Now close to ONE BILLION PESOS, ZAMCELCO’s astronomical debt is like a smart bomb ready to explode any moment and obliterate the sole power distributor that we have.

ZAMCELCO’s rotten poles, old, leaking power lines, meters and transformers have to be replaced PRONTO in order to cut system loss. The big, giant and real pilferers of electricity must be shut down. What about the big loaders? I was told by one of ZAMCELCO’s board directors that big firms have their meters located inside their facilities — not on the poles just like the residences have theirs. What? When meter-reading time comes, it takes the security guards about 20-30 minutes to open their steel, well-secured gates. Why?

The IMC will put a stop to these alleged anomalous practices of stealing electricity. That’s a guarantee, not a promise.