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Friday, 09 June 2017 13:42

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

San Jose, CA. — By the time this piece is out, the Golden State Warriors would have won their third game against the NBA defending champions Cleveland Cavaliers... or not. And, if everything falls in place, an Investment Management Contract would have been awarded to manage the almost-insolvent Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Zamcelco)... or maybe not.

The world, except Syria, Nicaragua and dear ol’ United States of America and Trump, agrees that we need to cut carbon emission because of the surge of climate change. Mr. Trump doesn’t think so. His mouthpieces argue that the U.S. is emitting carbon within tolerable limits and for that shouldn’t be part of the Paris treaty on gas emissions.

The Philippines, although a signatory of the Paris accord, isn’t emitting deadly particles or spewing carbon dioxide as heavy as China and India. Because we are a rising economy, we need cheap and reliable baseload coal-fired power plants to generate electricity as the climate-friendly Renewable Energy (RE) is being introduced. Wind capacity, for example, should at least double and solar energy needs to increase tenfold to meet the country’s demand for electricity now and in the future.

In the United States, wind and solar sources produce less than six percent of U.S. electricity. Yes, that small. A call for “nuclear renaissance” has sputtered because of high maintenance costs.

Zamboanga City cannot reduce its consumption of electricity. It can only go higher and higher and higher. Zamboanga’s power demand — from 93 megawatts a year ago to 103 MW now at peak hours — will continue to grow with the entry of big businesses demanding cheap and reliable energy. KCC is an example. The SM mall will be another. And so will Robinson’s and Puregold. Their coming to Zamboanga, a plateau of gold ready to be mined, is inevitable. They simply can’t resist the temptation.

The eventual shift to clean energy is all about saving on your power bill, not necessarily about saving earth. It’s about reducing dependency on oil, although not altogether, because we need oil to power our vehicles — air, land and sea.

The coal plants supply one-third of the U.S. power although it is facing high regulatory costs. Still, electricity rates remain low even though one-fifth of the country’s coal-generated power, representing about 165 coal plants, have been retired or are scheduled to retire.

Most regulated utilities make money by selling power, of course. Their customers who prefer solar energy are becoming quasi-competitors. The utilities have to maintain their distribution lines, which they say will force them to raise rates for non-solar customers, which could in turn spur more customers to go solar — the so-called “utility death spiral”.

Solar batteries are expensive, although the cost may drop soon and it’s obviously impractical, experts say, to heat molten salt at home. TIME reported that Crescent Dunes, a solar thermal plant, is powered by 360,000 mirrors. These mirrors will redirect the sun’s rays to heat up salt to 1,050*F, temperatures so extreme that the plant had to be designed by a rocket scientists. (Do we have those in the Philippines?)

The salt will then be stored in the plant’s matching hot tank where its excess heat will be available to spin steam turbines and generate electricity at any time.

But the DOE (Department of Energy) says that depending on the heat the sun generates and the power of the wind, the Philippines will still need coal-generated power to push the economy. We’re not a country like China or India whose environments have been polluted because of fossil fuel generation and coal burning. We are still operating within tolerable limits, according to the DOE and the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and that the population isn’t threatened with diseases caused by carbon emissions. Besides, coal plants are the most reliable source of energy generation, so the experts say.

That being said, the construction of a baseload power plant in San Ramon will commence soon. When completed and operational in 2021, the plant can generate 105 megawatts of electricity. It is an imbedded plant similar to the Western Mindanao Power Corp. plant in Sangali, a barangay east of the city proper. This simply means that the plant will solely be dedicated to Zamboanga City. Meaning, that we won’t be having power outages when something goes wrong with the Mindanao grid. That, ladies and gentlemen, will be our main power source under El Presidente’s federal system of government. The Independent State of Zamboanga starts now!