Counting the cost of renewable energy
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Counting the cost of renewable energy

For all the fuss and arguments on renewable energy and its positive impact on the environment, there is the inescapable fact that building one is not only uneconomical, it is likewise impractical. In the Philippine setting, that is.
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/>There are three types of renewable sources of energy available in the region: solar, wind and hydro. Of these, only solar has the potential to generate the amount of energy needed in the region.
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/>But it comes at a steep price.
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/>Central Mindanao does not have a large river system capable of producing 200 megawatts, unless the Allah River and Silway River are diverted to meet at one point and then dammed to produce enough volume of water to run gargantuan turbines to produce electricity.
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/>Both river systems are, however, vital to irrigating the vast plains of Korondal and Upper Valley. Tapping them for hydroelectric power will result in severe dislocation of farmers and will bring untold economic woes during the construction period, notwithstanding the thousand of hectares of land that will be inundated and forever be rendered useless.
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/>The Kalaong River in Kiamba, Sarangani can only produce 25 megawatts at the most while Siguel River bordering Maasim in Sarangani and General Santos only has a potential of up to 17 megawatts.
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/>The wind channel around Sarangani Bay blows in one direction only at any given time of the day and for no more than four hours, making it an unreliable and unsteady source of energy, not to mention its minimal potential.
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/>While solar power is a potential source, the cost of building a solar-powered power plant is simply and ridiculously too expensive. Consumers may have to pay more than P25 per kilowatt hour, way above the current prices of between P5.12 to P7 per kilowatt hour. The technology for large-scale commercial production is also neither available nor affordable for a country like the Philippines.  It is estimated that to produce 200 megawatts of electricity, some 10,000 hectares of solar panels will have to be built and put in place. From the practical point of view, that is out of question.
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/>Until advocates of renewable energy are able to present a study that sources of renewable energy in Central Mindanao are economically viable, fossil fuels are still the most practical, and therefore workable, alternative.
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/>Sure, fossil fuel contributes to the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG).  There is no argument against that.
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/>But that should not be the sole excuse why developing countries like the Philippines should not use fossil fuel.
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/>For one, existing technologies are now available to capture most GHGs, other than carbon dioxide. Still, modern technology now enables combustion chambers to efficiently burn coal at lower temperatures thus reducing carbon dioxide and other GHG emissions.
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/>It should also be noted that while most of the world’s most developed countries are using up to 50 per cent fossil fuel to fire up their generating plants, only 6 per cent of the Mindanao’s generated power is fueled by coal and 22 per cent by diesel.
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/>The key to mitigating the effects of carbon dioxide emissions in the Philippines is to maintain and protect its remaining forest cover pegged at 24% of the country’s total land area or approximately 7.16 million hectares.
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/>Aggressive reforestation will also help the country maintain its status as a net carbon absorbing country, meaning our forests absorb more carbon dioxide than we emit.
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/>India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh succinctly elucidated the dilemma of developing countries.
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/>”Developing countries cannot and will not compromise on development,” Singh told a recent conference on technology and climate change.
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/>Poorer countries, he was quoted in www.asisancorrespondent.com on October 22, need to “do our bit to keep our emissions footprint within levels that are sustainable and equitable.”
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/>Indeed, why should the Philippines be prevented from using fossil fuel to generate electricity using technologies that comply with the provisions of the Kyoto Protocols just because most developed countries have GHG emissions beyond what are set by the international treaty, which the United States refused to sign early on?