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Friday, 03 March 2017 11:19

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

By the title of my column, it means that Zamboanga will have its second embedded power plant in San Ramon, the first being a diesel plant in Sangali. The Sangali plant provides about 35 out of the contracted 50 megawatts power to Zamcelco. We need about 93 megawatts of power at peak loads. The other power providers are Aboitiz, TMI, Psalm, and San Miguel.

As the city continues to rise, we will need more power supply. The San Ramon coal-fired power plant will supply, when operational, 100MW if needed. It will be a permanent fixture dedicated primarily for Zamboanga. That means that we’d have guaranteed sufficient and sustained cheap electricity for the next 25 or so years starting 2020.

For the Doubting Thomases and those who fear pollution, Mr. Alex Magno, a Manila-based columnist for the Philippine Star, wrote this:

“There appears to be a...campaign to discredit the use of coal to generate power. The campaign touches on the right environmentalist buttons even as it grossly oversimplifies our energy-mix options.

“No one will disagree with green energy. At the moment, however, renewable energy sources are much more expensive than conventional options. The technologies have not yet matured and RE cannot provide the base load capacity we need.

“Furthermore, a twisted policy decision was adopted a few years ago that forces consumers to subsidize RE producers through a mechanism called “feed-in tariffs” (fit). That ensures the profitability of RE investors while keeping our energy costs high. The net result is still to keep manufacturing costs high, causing our exports to be uncompetitive.

“Coal-fired plants compose a major part of our current energy mix. They supply the lowest cost power to the system, offsetting the more expensive RE plants and the insidious FIT... There is no use to demonize the use coal across the board.

“The larger portion of coal plants now in use (employ) modern technologies. The days of the smoky plants are over. The new plants come a long way in terms of energy improvement, emissions reduction and less impact on surrounding communities through reuse of coal by-products.

“The fly ash collected from coal plants is used as cement binder to make sturdier structures. The button ash is usable as fuel for a number of manufacturing plants. It makes economic sense to assiduously collect the ash.

“Modern exhaust technology allows coal plants to capture nearly all the carbon emitted by coal plants. The most stringent anti-pollution standards are imposed on our coal plants by the DENR. That is why all the dirty old plants have been phased out and replaced by supercritical or even ultra-supercritical technologies now in use. Even the most advanced economies are now returning to coal-powered plants using modern technologies.

“We cannot radically alter our current energy-mix for reasons of cost and reliability. Our consumers are not ready to accept astronomical power costs generated entirely by RE. High power cost will torpedo our economic growth and cause poverty to remain widespread.

“It may not seem like it, but the country does have an extremely small carbon footprint relative to the size of its economy. This is because of strict environmental standards we maintained for years. There is therefore no point in the current effort to demonize coal plants.”