EDITORIAL - Renewables

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Renewables

Since 2005, among the tourist draws in Ilocos Norte have been the modern windmills in Bangui town. Private firm Northwind Power Development Corp. set up the wind farm using turbine generator units provided by a Danish firm. Ayala Corp. firm AC Energy has taken over the operation, which has inspired the construction of more wind farms in other parts of the country.

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Marcos cited the wind farm in his home province as he promised incentives for investments in developing cleaner sources of energy, including wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower and natural gas.

The main issue raised against renewables is the higher cost compared to coal and, under normal circumstances, petroleum products. The initial investment required for shifting to renewable energy, such as the use of durable solar panels in office buildings, can also be steep. The government will have to find ways to make renewable energy more affordable.

A more contentious issue is the President’s call for a review of the policy on nuclear energy. He indicated that the controversial Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, built during his late father’s regime and mothballed after the people power revolt, may no longer be revived. Instead, “smaller scale modular nuclear plants and other derivations” will be explored through public-private partnerships.

The Duterte administration began exploring this option in its final months, with energy officials visiting projects in the United States. Opponents of nuclear energy, however, point out that the Philippines is located within the Pacific Ring of Fire, with frequent powerful earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that may cause a catastrophic accident in a nuclear plant.

Environmental advocates also point out that to date, there has been no technology that adequately addresses the problem of nuclear waste disposal. Efforts to recycle the waste have gone nowhere. This should be a significant concern for anyone who sees the importance of shifting to renewable energy.

If even modular nuclear power plants are planned, the government and its private sector partner will also likely have to hurdle NIMBY: a not-in-my-backyard stance from affected communities.

Until safer technology is developed for harnessing nuclear power for peaceful uses, the push for renewables for the country’s energy needs should do for now. As the President himself has pointed out, the country has wind, sun, geothermal, water and natural gas resources in abundant supply. All that’s needed is their proper harnessing.

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