Fuel diversity, nuclear energy planned for PH future

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The Philippines should reduce its dependency on one fuel, and instead tap diverse fuels in order to provide for its increasing electricity requirements, said Energy Policy and Planning Bureau Director Jesus Tamang.
Speaking before the Philippine Energy Plan at the third Philippine Nuclear Congress organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and its attached agency, the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI), Tamang stressed the need for a strong diversification program for the energy sector.

Held at the Diamond Hotel in Manila recently, the Philippine Nuclear Congress discussed the status and contributions of nuclear science and technology in national development and helped establish stronger linkages between the different sectors and institutions.

Tamang said nuclear energy is still part of the long-term options for the Philippines. But the country should have a national policy for nuclear energy as a power generator if it will indeed be tapped, he stressed.

In the 1970s, the Philippines depended heavily on oil. This was replaced by other fuels in succeeding years. Presently however, the country is once again banking heavily on one single source for fuel supply – coal.

The years 1990-2014 saw a tripling of electricity requirements in the country brought about by different factors namely, the residential sector, the urbanizing sector, and growing purchasing power.

However, it is the household, Tamang said, which is the leading driver of this significant increase in electricity requirements.

“Right now, we remain at 80 percent connection for the households. We would like to be able to replace this to 90 percent by 2017 and hopefully by 2020, we will be able to achieve 100 percent,” he revealed. “But then we need to take note that the number of households remains a moving target.”

Aside from the households, he mentioned business outsourcing companies which are very much dependent on electricity and manufacturing start-ups, as additional drivers of increased energy requirements.

He said this scenario will spawn a lot of automation and connections, thus fueling the need for a more sustainable energy supply.

He related the prospect ofiIndustrialization for the agricultural sector as another factor.

“if we move toward that objective, definitely energy is still going to be required,” Tamang explained. “Even electricity will be required in the farms, the cannery, and all these related facilities.”

To select which fuels will be part of this fuel mix policy, Tamang said that what is important is the equivalent price to the end user.

He said we can check for how much is the generation cost of power from coal.

“But at the moment, we’re still not able to account for the cost of externalities – how much of the emissions, of the particulates from coal is affecting us, especially the community where the power plant is, and how much of that can be added to the generation cost. So right now, on the fuel mix policy that we’re working on, we’re trying to account for the possible externalities. We’d like to be able to identify externalities for all fuels – good or bad. Because one externality may be also generating jobs, or creation of new industries.,” he explained.

In case of nuclear energy, he said that first of all, they need to complete the feasibility study that they are working on. To put in place a nuclear energy program implementation office, recommend an action to be taken on the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, and have a stronger nuclear information campaign if indeed it will be tapped.

Tamang also mentioned the necessity of a strong energy infrastructure that can withstand natural calamities especially in the face of climate change.

“We want to make sure that all our facilities – be the power plant, the substation, the petroleum dispensing station – all of these should be always able to withstand the very force of climate change and if they are affected, they should be able to bring back service at the soonest possible time,” he said.

He added that government and the private sector should work hand in hand. (Macon Araneta)

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