EDC backs renewables, says coal has hidden costs

by Riza T. Olchondra – 12:19 AM February 15th, 2016

from Philippine Daily Inquirer

COAL may initially seem like a cheap source of fuel but with its impact on the environment and public health, vulnerable countries such as the Philippines should instead focus on developing renewable energy (RE), said Richard Tantoco, president and COO of geothermal power development leader Energy Development Corp. (EDC).

In a statement, Tantoco said that while dependence on coal-fueled power plants may initially provide reliable and cheap electricity, countries that have depended on coal plants as their main source of electricity have learned that such reliance can ultimately prove to be very costly.

“Coal may readily appear to be the cheaper option—especially with the recent crash in global coal prices—but what other countries may have saved in electricity prices by taking the fast and cheaper route, is quickly being eroded by the mounting social and environmental costs that they did not foresee or simply chose to ignore. The truth is, coal has costly externalities,” Tantoco said.

Such “externalities,” Tantoco said, include environmental and health costs.

He cited a study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the environmental and health costs not included in the price of fossil fuels like coal which amounted to $5.3 trillion dollars for 2015 alone or about $10 million per minute.

He also cited figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) on diseases and premature deaths that can be traced to outdoor air pollution caused largely by burning coal.

Tantoco said that the Philippine government’s COP 21 commitments, including that of undertaking GHG (CO2e) emissions reduction of about 70 percent by 2030, were a critical step in the right direction, as he called on all sectors to rally behind the government to honor and be accountable for such commitments.

Citing worldwide trends toward low carbon and sustainable technologies, he emphasized that the switch to renewable or cleaner technologies, while difficult, is not impossible and should be done now.

“We have a golden opportunity to learn from the mistakes of other countries whose overreliance on coal is now costing them trillions of dollars in externalities. I certainly hope that we do not have to learn the lessons from the mistakes that we will knowingly commit moving forward because to do so would make our future generations suffer the consequences of going the ‘fake cheap’ route. Rather, we should see this as an opportunity to take the time to take up cleaner and more efficient technologies that manage environmental, health and social impacts better,” Tantoco said.

In terms of disasters, the Philippines is among the so-called “V20” or the 20 nations most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

Such countries face an average of around 50,000 climate change related deaths per year.

The number is expected to rise exponentially by 2030 and economically, the Philippines faces escalating annual losses of at least 2.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) potential per year, about P360 billion or P150,000 per person.

“The phenomenon that is climate change has never been territorial. It does not matter how much or how little carbon we emit today as a country relative to others—what should really matter is that the whole world recognizes that the Philippines will always be one of the hardest hit by the adverse impact of climate change, year after year. That as a country with limited resources, our capacity to respond to emergencies, disasters and calamities has proven to be clearly inadequate. We cannot continue to live with this fact unaffected, and we have to make our choices and set policies sooner than later to stop this self-inflicted harm on both a national and global scale,” Tantoco said.