The Asian Development Bank (ADB) main office is in Manila. It is this year’s host to the 8th Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) which according to the event website would be “sharing best practices in policy, technology, and finance to meet the region’s climate and energy security challenges”.
This activity would be drawing in mixed bag of carbon traders, dirty energy proponents, governments, national and multinational banks, carbon and clean energy investment funds, project developers and service providers with a sprinkling of sustainable energy advocates from more than a hundred countries. This forum seeks to prop up the ADB’s image as a leading clean energy promoter in Asia.
Yet, a casual perusal of the program reveals that its concept of clean energy is not necessarily synonymous with renewable and sustainable energy. Alongside presenting the Asia Solar Initiative, a $ 9 billion 3000 megawatt (MW) venture, they would likewise tackle carbon sequestration, coal gasification and use of bio gas or ethanol.
Carbon sequestration or capturing and compressing carbon dioxide (CCS) would mean more energy needs for coal plants which are equipped with this technology, by as much as 25 to 40 percent which in turn will translate to higher energy costs for consumers by 21 to 91 percent.
Coal gasification is closely associated with fluidized bed combustion (whether using fossil fuel like coal or biomas) while promotion of bio gas or production of ethanol is contentious as the demand for bio gas translates to less lands for food production and compromises food security in favor of plantations of jathropa and sugar cane. For coal plants using fluidized bed combustion technology, the emissions remain dirty—still emitting lead and mercury and cannot by any means considered “clean”!
Unfortunately, the forum cannot hide the fact that the ADB is deeply involved in dirty energy investments across the region such as the 4,000 MW Mundra Ultra Mega in Mujarat,Iindia, the 2,625 MW Mae Moh Plant in Lampang, Thailand and the 600 MW Masinloc Thermal Power Plant in Zambales which produces 385,000 tons of ash in a year. An expansion of the Masinloc Plant is also being financed by the ADB.
Coal Plant Boom
In 2010, the country’s 59% energy requirement is sourced from coal and oil-based power plants while 28 % is generated by geothermal and hydropower plants. On the other hand, wind, solar and biomass share in the energy mix are either underreported or non-existent.
The Department of Energy (DOE) expects that by 2016, 300 MW capacity would come from five wind power projects and a 1,400 MW installed capacity by 2020. On the other hand, coal power commitments by 2020 is expected to reach 5,000 MW.
This skewed energy policy is reflected in Central Luzon where five coal plants are underway: 600-megawatt plant by Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (RP Energy) and a 200-MW plant by Korea Electric Power Corp., both in Subic, Zambales; a 600-MW plant representing Phase 2 of the Masinloc coal-fired power facility by American Energy Systems Philippines (AES Philippines) in Masinloc, Zambales; a 300 MW pulverized coal plant in Mariveles, Bataan and a 600-MW plant by San Miguel Corp. (SMC) in Limay, Bataan.
Now, the Mariveles Coal Plant is already 20 percent operational. Already, power rates in Bataan has tripled. In Masinloc , Zambales, a decade of living beside a coal plant has devastated local mango production and vital water bodies like Oyon Bay.
The Energy Plan of the Aquino administration is clearly unsustainable. It does not intend to depart from energy sources that have proven hazardous in the past, like coal or harness indigenous and renewable sources of energy like wind and solar despite recent studies that in the long run these sources of energy would in fact be cheaper and are not burdened by debilitating social and environmental costs.
Promoting Dirty Energy towards a Grim Future
Clearly, ADB is up to its elbows in dirty energy projects like coal, in spite coal’s reputation of being the dirtiest energy source known to man. Not only is power rates expected to skyrocket with more plants at the hands of private corporations but also long-term environmental backlash is in the offing.
Globally, a third of all carbon dioxide emissions come from burning coal, making it the largest source of greenhouse gases (GHG).Coal fired plants are the single largest emitter of mercury.
According to International Energy Agency (IEA), the world faces serious dangers from global warming if it continues with the planned investments in oil and coal facilities. Oil use will rise 14% by 2035 and coal use will surge by 65% based on current trends. Investment in low-carbon technologies must be made by 2017 to prevent long-term average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees.
A two-degree rise will result in a warmer world. Warming oceans may not produce more tropical storms and hurricanes, it may even produce fewer. Yet, those storms will be more intense, and with longer dry spells between them, according to Kevin Trenberth, senior scientist and head of the climate analysis section of the independent National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado.
This cannot be allowed to come to pass. Developed countries who carry the most liability in the present predicament of our climate must be made to shoulder the burden while mitigating their GHG emissions. Meanwhile, countries like the Philippines must do away with its current economic paradigm that makes the whole country most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and be given the means to adapt to the changing climate conditions. It should also pursue an energy plan that will prioritize tapping of renewable sources like wind and solar.
With energy profiteers like ADB teaming up with dirty energy proponents, only the unified voice and action of the people’s of Asia will end the antics and hypocrisy of these climate change charlatans.