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Greenpeace questions investment in coal power plants in Mindanao

By: - Deputy Day Desk Chief / @TJBurgonioINQ
/ 06:39 PM April 11, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—Greenpeace is stumped why the Department of Energy is investing in more coal power plants to generate at least 700 megawatts of electricity when Mindanao is short only by 100 megawatts.

Behind the shortfall is a “conspiracy” to push coal-fired power plants, said Panalipdan, an alliance of environmentalists and people’s organizations in southern Mindanao, vowing protests at Friday’s energy “summit” conference  in Davao City convened by President Aquino.

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“In total, we have 1,000 Mw of coal in the pipeline. We have a current shortfall of 100 Mw, why are they investing heavily in coal?’’  Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director, told reporters in a briefing.

If one takes a look at the number of coal plants so far approved, “maybe we can speculate how powerful and influential the coal lobby is,” he said.

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Preparations were underway to build more coal-fired power plants to generate 700 Mw of base-load power, Energy officials said.

Mindanao had a daily demand of 1,200 Mw and a shortfall of 100 Mw, and some 1,400 Mw would be in the pipeline for the island from 2012 to 2014, Energy Undersecretary Josephine Patricia Asirit said.

By hastily approving a 100-Mw coal-fired power project in Zamboanga City last week, the Department of Energy has preempted the conference, which is being convened to find sustainable solutions to Mindanao’s power woes, Hernandez said.

There would have been no need for the summit had the government implemented the Renewable Act. And if Mr. Aquino choses to endorse “harmful coal projects’’ he would be risking a “massive failure of leadership,’’ he warned.

Juland Suazo, spokesperson of Panalipdan, said officials of the Mindanao Business Council had admitted that mining companies operating in Mindanao in 2014 would need 1,000 Mw, a fact that he said jibes with the DOE’s plan to generate that much energy by 2014.

“This means that this is not for us. This is not for Davao. This is not for Mindanao. This is for foreign mining companies,’’ he said in the same briefing at the Max’s Restaurant in Quezon City.

Since Mindanao has a shortfall of 100 Mw, the surplus of electricity would go to the mining companies, Suazo said.

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“They are rushing the coal-fired power plants because there are more than 30 mining contracts, and 21 of these are in Mindanao,’’ he said. “There is a conspiracy among corporations pushing coal-fired power plants to make coal mining corporations earn profits.’’

Panalipdan is mobilizing at least one thousand Davaoeños for a multi-sectoral rally to be mounted outside venue of the conference.

“We will present our position. I hope the President listens to the voice of the people who are pushing for renewable energy,’’ Suazo said.

Residents of Barangay Talisayan, Zamboanga City, site of a coal plant recently given an environmental compliance certificate without an environmental impact assessment, were also mounting a rally in the city, barangay chair Josephine Pareja said.

The National Renewable Energy Program has pegged Mindanao’s geothermal potential at 290 Mw, current hydropower capacity at 1,080 Mw, wind potential at 336 Mw and potential solar power at 5 kilowatt hours per square meter, according to Greenpeace.

And it would take less time to build renewable energy projects than coal plants, Hernandez said, noting that a project tapping winds could take six months, while a solar power project could take a year.

The rapid development of these energy sources could suffice to meet the Mindanao’s energy shortfall, while coal plants could lock the people of Mindanao into “at least three decades of reliance on dirty and polluting fossil fuel,’’ Greenpeace said.

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TAGS: coal power plants, Department of Energy, Greenpeace, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, investments in Mindanao, Mindanao power plants
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