Sunday, 26 December 2010

Low carbon, high growth with clean technology

Imelda V Abaño
Business Mirror

Sitting comfortably in a small nipa hut by the sea, 42-year-old fisherman Juanito Ilumet has been staring for hours at the 15 giant tri-blade windmills lined up along the 9-kilometer shoreline facing the South China Sea in Ilocos Norte in northern Philippines. He could not imagine how the abundant wind in their remote coastal village can be used for clean-power generation, which helps them improve health, education, livelihood and economic condition.

“The power source has transformed daily life in our villages,” Ilumet said as he points at the tall, white windmills in the province’s town of Bangui. “The benefits have been astounding because our children began to study longer at night, working in the kitchen for women is not troublesome, health centers have been providing better services, villagers are returning from the cities and our income has improved.”

Ilumet said about 600,000 people in the northern province, including his own family, were grateful, as most of them lived without electricity before.

The first of its kind in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia, the $54-million Northwind Bangui Bay Project that harnesses wind into electricity in Northern Luzon has been in operation since 2005, providing as much as 40 percent of the power needed by the entire province. The windmills produce up to 25 megawatts of renewable energy.

“We are seeing so much improvement in the daily activities of thousands of people in the villages. Wind power is the best way to electrify and develop this part of the country. We are at the beginning of an energy revolution in the Philippines,” Dino Tiatco, Northwind Power Development Corp. plant manager told the BusinessMirror.

Tiatco explained that the wind farm presents many benefits such as increased energy security, jobs creation, reduced dependence on imported fuels, improved air quality and curb carbon-dioxide emissions.

In the Philippines wind power is one of the most advanced forms of renewable energy, making the government device a wind-mapping data that would take off in constructing more wind-farm projects in different parts of the country, said Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary Mario Marasigan.

“The potential for harnessing wind remains high in the Philippines. The interest of investing in wind energy has been on the rise,” Marasigan said, adding that there are at least 62 wind projects in the DOE.

Boosting clean technology

THE harsh implications of climate change, the increasing prices of fossil fuel, deepening oil supply insecurity and the growing appetite for a sustainable energy is driving every nation in Asia to tap indigenous sources of renewable energy. Most countries are boosting the use of solar, wind and geothermal energy for rural households.

According to International Energy Agency (IEA) executive director Nobuo Tanaka, an ambitious mix of policies and technologies were needed to reduce global carbon-dioxide emissions from energy over the next decades.

“Low-carbon technologies are the only way for the world to have a sustainable energy,” Tanaka told the BusinessMirror at a side event during the December Cancun climate-change talks. “Clean technology that moves countries to low-carbon economy is a tough path, but [one that] will be very beneficial in the future.”

The IEA presented in early December during the Cancun climate-change conference the result of its global Energy Efficiency Governance study, saying that comprehensive and effective energy efficiency governance is needed urgently.

“Improved energy efficiency is a critical response to the pressing climate change, economic development and energy security challenges facing many countries,” the report stated.

For Philippine Climate Change Commissioner Heherson Alvarez, it is critical to find alternative sustainable energy solutions now, but he sees a growing demand for renewable energy and that governments around the world have begun to invest in clean technology such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.

“We want to see our country move on to a sustainable path of development that promotes clean energy,” Alvarez said. “Countries, including the Philippines, can benefit from harnessing clean technology and this includes creation of green jobs, a low-carbon economy and a sustainable energy.”

A booming investment in Asia

WHILE there are many interested investors on renewable energy in Asia, most of it has not been put up on a significant commercial scale, according to the World Bank (WB).

“It is booming in Asia. But governments must begin to take action now to further incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency into the world’s energy mix,” WB vice president for sustainable development, Katherine Sierra earlier told the BusinessMirror.

Sierra said the benefits of renewable energy—such as hydropower, geothermal, biomass, wind and solar—are considerable. Although she says environmental benefits are clear, less obvious is mitigation of energy-security problems, such as ensuring reliable supply of energy in its various forms.

The Bank has become the largest single source of finance for environmental investments, technical assistance and capacity-building in developing countries. More recently, the WB has been asked to manage the world’s largest new source of concessional resources to stimulate low-carbon and climate-resilient growth, the Climate Investment Funds, including the Clean Technology Fund.

“Developing countries, including low-income [ones], will need to consider how they respond to future risks and opportunities, with renewable energy being one of many solutions to address climate-resilient development,” Sierra said.

To boost renewable-energy projects, Sierra revealed that multilateral agencies are mobilizing $40 billion in investment for low-carbon technologies in the developing world.

On the other hand, Global Wind Energy Council secretary-general Steve Sawyer said that some wind power development, for instance, has already taken place in quite a few of the countries in Asia.

Sawyer told the BusinessMirror that while wind energy would have been dismissed as “too expensive” by most developing countries just a few years ago, the continuing success of the technology in an ever-widening group of countries has changed that attitude to one of dramatically increased knowledge about wind generation and the role it can play in a country’s power mix.

“Given the excellent wind resources in Asian countries and government initiatives for exploiting it, such development would have a considerable impact,” Sawyer said.

According to the Global Wind Energy Outlook 2010 report, wind energy could attract around $3.9 billion worth of investment in Asia every year, and create around 40,000 jobs by 2015.

“With the right technology and government policies in place, Asian countries such as the Philippines can have a secured and sustainable energy for the next decade,” Sawyer stressed. “Depending on new sources of clean energy will certainly make a country reap the accompanying economic, environmental and energy security benefits.”

As for fisherman Ilumet, new clean technologies such as the wind turbines installed in their village benefit his family and his people. For him, harnessing different forms of renewable energy such as wind enables them to gain access to electricity and improve their quality of life.

“It’s a huge change. We have never experienced this kind of happiness in our villages. We now see a bright future ahead of us and our children,” Ilumet said as he showed a bunch of wood carvings of windmills that his wife and children will sell to tourists a few meters away from the wind turbines.

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