Environment activists say coal-fired power plant is dirty technology

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 November)—Coal is neither cheap nor clean, environment activists today said in a gathering here of groups opposed to the plan of the Aboitiz Power Corp. to put up a 200-megawatt coal-fired power plant in the city.

If the “unquantifiable costs” against health, the environment and the displacement of people in the communities are also considered, coal is even more expensive, said Amalie Obusan, Greenpeace Southeast Asia climate and energy campaigner.

Obusan’s statement refuted earlier declarations by Mindanao business leaders that a coal-fired power plant is the only affordable project they can put up in the next three years to solve the impending power shortfall in Mindanao.

“Market price is only half the story,” Obusan said, adding, “the harm caused by coal mining and coal combustion and what it costs for every kilowatthour of electricity is not being reflected in its market price.”

Davao fisher folk said they are worried over the impact on the environment once the Aboitiz Power pushes through with its proposed coal-fired power plant in Davao City.

“I’m worried because the livelihood of small fishing villages might only be considered ‘collateral damage’ once the plant is set up,” said Cirilo Labastida, president of the fisher folk group Nagambala.

He said he was reacting to an earlier statement by Vicente Lao, chair of the Mindanao Business Council, that putting up a 200-megawatt coal-fired plant in Davao City is bound to have “collateral damage” but that it will solve Mindanao’s impending power shortfall in 2014.

Labastida said he wondered whether the impact on the livelihood of small fishing communities will only be counted as “collateral damage.

Lao earlier expressed full support to Aboitiz’ proposal, saying the 200-megawatt power plant will address Mindanao’s projected shortfall in 2014, although there might be “collateral damage” in setting up the plant.

Obusan said most coal-fired power plants in the Philippines are being put up along the coastal areas because the country has been an importer of coal.

“Coal’s upfront cost is relatively low but because coal in the Philippines is relatively low-grade, the Philippines is a coal importing country. This makes us easily hostage to the changing prices of coal and oil, resources that we don’t have,” she explained.

She said that burning coal causes the most harmful damage on earth, health and environment, aside from eroding entire cultures by displacing whole communities.

“Climate change is the greatest environmental threat we face today,” she said.

“Coal burning contributes more to climate change than any other fossil fuel by pumping 11 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Seventy-two percent of carbon dioxide emissions come from power generation and 41 percent of total global carbon dioxide emissions come from from fossil fuels,” she added.

Obusan said that even the term “clean technology” used to describe existing technology on coal is a misnomer.

She said the only available “clean coal technology” in the Philippines is the “circulating fluidized bed chamber” (CFBC), which only traps sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide from the plant in the plant’s bedchamber, but still lets out carbon dioxide, the main contributor to climate change, and mercury, a toxic substance.

Almar Dayondon, member of the Dabawenyos Ayaw sa Coal, said he is worried that the proposed power plant might strain the city’s water resources.

AboitizPower  is the holding company for the Aboitiz Group’s investments in power generation, distribution, retail and power services. According to its website, it is a “major producer of renewable energy in the country with several hydroelectric and geothermal assets in its generation portfolio” while the “non-renewable portfolio consists of plants throughout the country.

It owns and operates distribution utilities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Its brand promise, its website adds, is “Better Solutions, to actively develop and offer effective energy solutions to meet the country’s power demands and build commitment to sustain Earth’s resources.”

“A testament to AboitizPower’s commitment to responsibly power the Philippines is Cleanergy, its brand of clean and renewable energy. By offering Better Solutions through its business and community initiatives, AboitizPower aims to create a Better Future for generations of Filipinos,” the website says. (Germelina Lacorte/MindaNews)

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