Coal-powered plants pose serious threats to public health and are the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions so the government should stop, prevent and correct its approval of the construction of 29 new coal-fired power plants and the implementation of 39 new coal mine explorations.
This is the recommendation of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, the regional arm of Greenpeace, a global environmental organization campaigning against environmental pollution, forest destruction, hazardous waste importation, and waste incineration, among others.
Of the proposed coal-fired plants, 23 will be located in Luzon, nine in the Visayas and 13 in Mindanao.
In his presentation at the 2016 Green Summit held at Silliman University in Dumaguete City recently, Reuben Andrew Muni, Climate and Energy campaigner, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Philippines, said the country should instead fast track renewable energy projects.
The Philippines has a renewable energy potential of 200,000 megawatts, but so far, only 10 percent of this potential has been utilized, Muni said, citing the latest Department of Energy statistics.
From 2009 to 2015, there were 782 service contracts awarded for renewable energy production, with a potential of slightly less than 15,500MWs. The biggest share went to hydro at 9,461MW, solar 4,018MW, wind 1,168MW, and geothermal 610MW.
Muni said the share of renewable energy in the total power mix in the country in 2015 was 25.4 percent, compared to coal which was 44.5 percent. This is off the DOE target energy mix of 30 percent for renewables and 30 percent for coal, in addition to other sources.
Despite government's preference for coal on the belief that it is cheaper, the coal-dominated energy mix in the country has had no effect on the fact that the Philippines has the highest electricity rates in the ASEAN.
“In the meantime, there are 59 more boiler units of coal-powered plants set to start commercial operations by 2020. In terms of coal mining, there are 39 coal operating contracts awarded as of 2015.
This is alarming to many environmental groups, he said, because each stage in the coal lifecycle—mining, transportation, washing, combustion, and disposing of post-combustion wastes—negatively affects health.
In 2014, the Harvard University Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group conducted a Greenpeace-commissioned study and projected that 2,400 Filipinos will die from coal-related air pollution every year - from stroke, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, other cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases.
Coal is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – 80 percent more than natural gas - and accounts for almost one-half of global emissions released annually from fossil fuel combustion. Almost 30 percent are emitted from coal-fired plants or 2.7 billion tons of it annually, Muni added.*Celia Acedo
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