Should We Have a Moratorium on New Coal Plants?

 

According to news reports, Germany intends to shut down its first power plants that use black coal in 2020 as part of the country’s efforts to phase out all coal plants by 2038.

Earlier this year, Germany, one of the largest consumers of coal in the world, announced that it would shut down all 84 coal-fired power plants in the next two decades in the hope of meeting its international commitments in the fight against climate change. 

Coal plants account for roughly 40 percent of Germany’s electricity as the country is the last bastion of coal burners inNorth-Western Europe.

The decision to close all of Germany’s coal-fired plants was no walk in the park. The German coal exit commission consisting of industry representatives, politicians, and non-government organizations (NGOs) spent seven months of discussions and a 21-hour negotiating session deciding whether to junk coal-fired plants altogether. 

The decision to end coal plant operations was described as “a historic accomplishment,” by Ronald Pofalla, chairman of the 28-member government commission. Likewise, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a member of the commission and an adviser to the German chancellor, Angela Merkel stressed that “This is an important step on the road to the post-fossil age – a step that also opens up new perspectives for the affected regions through innovation-driven structural change.” 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration is reported to have allotted some 1 billion euros or $1.1 billion to fund the closing of several coal plants with a total of five gigawatts capacity by 2023. Merkel’s government intends to replace coal power with renewables by increasing the share of renewable energy from 38 percent to 65 percent in 2030.

Germany, one of the largest consumers of coal in the world is shutting down all 84 coal-fired power plants in the next two decades. Photo c/o carbon brief. org

Germany is not the only country that’s retiring coal-fired plants. The United Kingdom government has earlier committed to phasing out its coal plants by 2025.

Similarly, in the United States, coal plants are being closed as well. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and Thomas Reuters, around 10,6000 megawatts of coal-fired plants are either to be retired or converted to gas by the end of 2019. Last year, several coal plants with a total of 13,000 MW ceased operations.

The Philippines, however, is going against the global trend. Data shows that coal accounts for 52.1 percent of the country’s power generation mix in 2018, up from 49.6 in 2017. On the other hand, the contribution of renewable energy has declined from 24.7 percent in 2017 to 23.5 percent in 2018.

And the Philippines will continue to rely on coal for at least two more decades, according to BNEF’s New Energy Outlook 2019. 

Caroline Chua, BloombergNEF’s energy analyst for Southeast Asia noted that coal-fired power generation in the Philippines will steadily increase and will remain as the biggest single source of electricity until 2041. “By 2050, the Philippines will still have almost as much coal-fired generation as today,” Chua stressed.

Our country’s reliance on coal does not sit well with various sectors. There have been calls to place a moratorium or suspension on the building of new coal-fired power plants. Cagayan de Oro City 2nd district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez floated the idea during a budget deliberation so the Philippines can cut its carbon emissions. 

Congressman Rodriguez asked Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi if he agrees to a moratorium on coal to help the Philippines meet its commitment to the United Nations by 2030. “May we know whether the Secretary agrees that we should, therefore, to comply with our Intended National[ly Determined] Contribution to the UN, we should therefore already have a moratorium on coal plants?” he asked.

The secretary, however, was quoted to have said a “moratorium on any technology is a disservice to our country.” If we can find alternative ways to provide electricity service, then it will not be a disservice.

The suggestion of Congressman Rodriguez has its merits. If we want to meet our international obligations of cutting down carbon emissions, then preventing the construction of more coal-fired plants is a great start. I am from Cagayan de Oro, and I am proud of Congressman Rodriguez’s stand. He will get my support.

But setting aside environmental concerns, there are other reasons why the Energy Department should consider placing a moratorium on coal power, particularly large central thermal coal plants.

We have to keep in mind that coal-fired power plants with large generating capacities are signed up for long-term power supply agreements (PSAs). These contracts often run up to 25 years.

The problem with these long-term PSAs is that they take away the power of consumers to choose their preferred sources of energy or technologies. Essentially, big coal-fired plants that are signed-up by distribution utilities will end up burdening consumers who are stuck with the same power supply contract for as long as 25 years. This is a disservice to consumers since what we should be aiming for and working for is for the consumers to be given a choice on their preferred technology and pricing. So distribution utilities should balance their portfolio by matching type and tenor of their contracts to the needs of their consumers.

This is just the problem with our energy planning. We often fail at being consumer-centric when in fact, placing the welfare of the consumers should always be the priority. Looking after consumers mean giving them as many options as possible. Unfortunately, locking them into long-term supply contracts is akin to taking away their power to choose. We could change all that now by considering a moratorium on the construction of big central thermal coal power plants.

But the discussion should be beyond just discussing “moratorium” as we should really be thinking about alternative ways to tap the environment for energy. It is this mentality of looking for an easy way out of our energy needs that leads us to the usual suspect: coal. So yes, we should have this moratorium on new coal plants while developing other sources of energy.

References:

Murang Kuryente slams DOE refusal to impose coal moratorium

Green energy use to rise but coal to remain necessary

http://ieefa.org/u-s-coal-plant-retirements-to-top-10gw-in-2019-eia/

Cusi not cool with coal-fired power plant moratorium

https://cleantechnica.com/2019/10/04/a-uk-coal-power-station-closes-signaling-the-end-of-an-era/

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/26/germany-agrees-to-end-reliance-on-coal-stations-by-2038

Floating nuclear power plants? Why not floating solar power plants?

Recently, our government signed-up with Rosatum Overseas, Russia’s state nuclear company to study the possibility of exploring the construction of nuclear power plants in the Philippines.

According to reports, our government is looking into the feasibility of buying into the newly launched floating nuclear power plant technology of Russia. Rosatom’s chief executive officer Alexei Likhachev was quoted to have said that Russia had already proposed building a floating nuclear power plant in the Philippines.

However, according to the palace spokesperson, the agreement on nuclear power is still uncertain.

This isn’t the first time proposals of building nuclear power plants are being brought up.

Last year, the local government unit of Sulu announced that it was studying the feasibility of putting up a modular nuclear power plant (NPP) in the province. This idea, however, was dismissed by Energy Department’s spokesperson and undersecretary Felix William as a “remote possibility”.

And he was correct in saying that there’s little chance of having a modular nuclear power plant in the country anytime soon.

During the power crisis of the 1990s we even considered tapping Russia’s nuclear submarines to help solve the power shortage. We just had a simple problem – the submarines had a frequency of 50 Hz.  We operate at 60 Hz.

Those pushing for nuclear plants fail to realize that the legislative and regulatory frameworks we have for nuclear power are already outdated as they were created some 50 years ago.

The Philippine Atomic Energy Commission or PAEC was created almost half a century ago to regulate nuclear power development and operations. PAEC also was handling the licensing of nuclear power engineers. The agency, however, was later downgraded to the Philippine National Research Institute (PNRI) during President Cory Aquino’s administration.

Before we talk about building nuclear power plants, let us ask ourselves, who would issue permits to build and operate a nuclear facility? And do we even have qualified people to build and operate them anyway?

Russia says that it is ready to assist the Philippines in exploring nuclear energy if it requests for such help. However, is it a good idea to rely solely on foreigners’ help given our lack of experts and experienced personnel to handle nuclear power?

It’s mind-boggling that a country that has so many natural resources are contemplating on building nuclear plants rather than turning to indigenous renewable energy. Have we forgotten that we are a tropical country or that we are a top producer of geothermal power?

We should instead start thinking about floating solar plants rather than floating or modular nuclear plants. Floating solar photovoltaic installations, after all, are a safer and more sensible option than nuclear ones.

floating solar2

World’s largest floating solar plant in China. Photo c/o http://www.we.forum.org

What’s great about floating solar technology is that it is highly similar to land-based PV systems except that the PV arrays, as well as most inverters, are placed on a floating platform. Thus, floating photovoltaic (FPV) installations are great for us as we have the expertise to build and operate floating solar plants given that we have been building land-based ones. The floating power plants are beneficial for our country, too given our high population density and competing uses for our land.

Floating solar plants are nothing new as the first FPV system was built in 2007 in Japan. The first commercial installation involving a 175 kWp was in 2008 in California. This was then followed by a medium to large floating installations in Korea, Japan, China, Australia, and the United Kingdom, to name a few. As of December 2018, some 1.8 gigawatt-peak was the recorded cumulative installed capacity around the world. This is expected to increase rapidly as more countries add FPV installations.

It can be the solution for those hard to reach areas as ground-mounted PV are usually difficult to deploy in mountainous areas. FPV, on the other hand, can be placed on bodies of waters like lakes or dams.

So, again why are we discussing floating nuclear power plants when we can bank on floating solar power plants? We have the expertise to build FPV installations. Thus, we do not need to rely solely on the knowledge and experience of foreigners, unlike nuclear plants. We do not have to look for complicated and almost impossible to achieve solutions for our growing power needs. We simply need to be practical and turn to our indigenous renewable energy for our energy security.

References:

https://globalnation.inquirer.net/180821/from-russia-with-nuke-plant-plans

https://www.rappler.com/nation/241987-gatchalian-says-nuclear-energy-very-risky-philippines-signs-deal-russia

Where Sun Meets Water: Floating Solar Market Report

Missed Targets Equal Expensive Power

The Department of Energy (DOE) says it’s now updating the country’s renewable energy targets.

The DOE admits that the country has failed in meeting its targets 10 years after the Renewable Energy Act was enacted. That’s not surprising given the constant increase of approved coal power plants in the last few years.

That’s not surprising given the constant increase of approved coal power plants in the last few years.

That’s the sorry state of the renewable energy development in the Philippines. Our slowness in adopting cleaner forms of power means that we are missing the benefits of renewables such as jobs generation, a cleaner environment, and cost savings.

Our reliance on traditional sources of energy is costing Filipinos a lot of money. And it is the reason why we have one of the highest electricity prices in the world.

The above points are not only my assertion. In fact, studies after studies have shown that we are paying a high price for our dependence on coal.

One of the recent studies with the same conclusion is the report entitled “Prospects Improve for Energy Transition in the Philippines” by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). The finding of the report struck me as it echoes what I have been saying all this time.

According to IEEFA, fuel price pass-throughs have inflated power prices in the Philippines.

It is no secret that our country has the highest power prices among Southeast Asian countries. Our energy prices are also considered relatively high compared to global standards by roughly Php10 per kilowatt-hour. (KwH) The report points out that, this is due to our reliance on imported fossil fuel, high financing cost, and uncompetitive market structures.

The report cites one coal plant of 167.4 MW as an example, which was supposed to deliver Php3.96 per kilowatt based on a signed power sales agreement (PSA) price in 2016. Unfortunately, the coal plant, on an average delivered PHp2 per kWh more than the agreed price in the PSA and even reaching Php7.11 per kWh. As I have been pointing out, the difference of the price was passed on to consumers, all thanks to the “pass-through” provisions in the contracts. Sadly, it is the Filipinos who suffer from such instances as they are the ones who have to pay the cost of fluctuations in foreign exchange rates and coal or fuel prices.

By just how much did the Filipinos “suffer”? The report says that from May 2018 to May 2019, coal’s unpredictable prices has led to Filipino consumers paying more than Php788.7 million. Again this is all courtesy of the pass-through costs and our dependence on traditional power sources. That’s just for 2018 to 2019.

coal

Coal imports. IEEFA report says that from May 2018 to May 2019, coal’s unpredictable prices has led to Filipino consumers paying more than Php788.7 million. Photo c/o http://www.financialexpress.com

Unfortunately, the value of imports has climbed up significantly over the years. The report says that coal imports in 2005 was USD317 million and has tripled to over 1 billion by 2010. From 2017 of 1.9 billion it ballooned to 2.7 billion by 2018.

So, us Filipinos, have been paying billions for these pass on costs since our energy planners have favored what I have been referring to as “floating” PSAs, which as the IEEFA pointed out burden consumers with the pass-through costs.

We could have saved billions for Filipino consumers only if our planners have opted for what I call “fixed contracts”. And as my preferred term indicates such contracts peg the price at a fixed price for a specified number of years.

Unfortunately, our planners tagged fixed-price contracts as more expensive. At a glance, a PSA of Php5.10 per kWh for 25 years may look more expensive than a floating PSA of Php5 per kWh. And as the example of IEEFA, floating PSAs can reach beyond the agreed price due to global price spikes and foreign exchange. So, again, I ask which is more expensive? A floating PSA that has a lower agreed price at the start but could balloon up in the few years or a fixed price contract that will have consumers pay the exact amount until the PSA contract has ended?

Plus, of course, these floating PSAs do not provide incentives to power producers to minimize operating costs since these are passed on to consumers anyway.

There’s no denying that our energy planners’ preference for coal power despite experts’ assertions that renewable power is the way to move forward has been costing Filipino consumers a lot.

There was a time when building coal-fired power plants was an economical and practical choice. I have built some of them myself many years back. But times are changing, and what once used to work for us no is longer is the best option

Our best bet is to put our money and resources on renewable power. The IEEFA report stresses that we can lower the wholesale power prices by 30 percent if we allow renewables to flourish. I have been saying time and time again that if we want stable power prices, then we must develop and have more renewable energy in our power mix. The DOE can review our renewable energy targets all they want, but the bottom line is, our government should  pave the way for renewables to penetrate the market easily and consistently.

References:

https://www.philstar.com/business/2019/09/02/1948208/doe-updates-renewable-energy-targets

Prospects Improve for Energy Transition in the Philippines. IEEFA

Rolling Out New Programs May Not Be Necessary

It is no secret that the Philippines is heavily dependent on coal for its energy needs.

Data from the Department of Energy show that coal’s share in our country’s energy mix was 35.4% in 2017 up from 34.6% in 2016.  On the other hand, renewable energy contracted last 2018, only contributing 31.1% of the total, down from 32.5% in 2017.

Indeed, the Philippines is declining in terms of renewable energy development.

This is why it’s heartwarming to hear President Rodrigo Duterte address this issue in the last State of the Nation Address (SONA) where he ordered to fast-track the development of renewable energy resources. His exacts words were: “We recognize the urgent need to ensure the sustainability and availability of resources and the development of alternative ones. In this regard, I trust that Secretary Cusi shall fast-track also the development of renewable energy sources, and reduce dependence on the traditional energy sources such as coal.”

Naturally, the Department of Energy (DOE) responded to such call. In a statement, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said that “The DOE is encouraged by the President’s comments. Indeed, his leadership will be pivotal for the DOE to implement policies and regulations that ensure the affordability, reliability, security, and sustainability of energy in the Philippines for generations to come.” 

The secretary promised to fast-track the implementation of the key renewable energy policies, namely the Renewable Portfolio Standard and the Green Energy Option. The former mandates distribution utilities to source a percentage of their power from renewable sources. The latter, on the other hand, empowers consumers to demand that their power comes from renewable sources.

The Energy secretary also said that it is looking at implementing a Green Energy Rate that will help the country to build a renewable energy portfolio of 2,000 megawatts in 10 years. There would be a ceiling rate and a green tariff rate would be auctioned among investors and developers.

Green tariffs and Green Energy Options are nothing new.  Other countries already have these programs, although the Green Tariff in other countries seems to be quite different from the one being planned by the DOE.

For example, in the United States, utility green tariff is optional programs in regulated electricity markets that are offered by utilities and by the state public utility commissions. The program lets industrial customers and large commercial clients purchase bundled renewable energy power with a special utility tariff rate.  It allows utilities to supply large industrial and commercial clients with up to 100 percent renewable power that’s either owned by the utility or sourced from another independent power producer. I’m not sure if this is the model the DOE and National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) are looking at. 

In the United Kingdom (UK), the green tariff is also available and works quite differently.  It is offered to those who want to lessen their carbon footprint with their power consumption by allowing customers to give back the same amount of power consumed back to the national grid in the form of renewable energy. Green tariff can also work by supplying the customer with either 100 percent RE or a portion of.

Clearly, Green tariffs are in place in other countries to help their RE sector prosper as well as to provide customers with cleaner option.

However, in the Philippines, rolling out new programs may not be the most urgent concern if we want our renewable energy sector to flourish. What our regulators must pay attention to are the current programs that hinder the growth of the sector. There is the Competitive Selection Process  (CSP) as it places renewable energy developers at a disadvantage and the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA) that fails to help local renewable energy development.

Let’s take a look at the CSP mandating energy demand must first be aggregated then later bid out by a third party. This means that the power capacity becomes large before it can be auctioned off. It is then the large quantity required by the bid that places renewable energy suppliers at a disadvantage. We have to keep in mind that most RE plants have small capacities.  Unfortunately, those with smaller capacities RE plants will be left out in the cold as a result of aggregating the power requirement before the auction.

So, will the planned Green Energy Tariff by the DOE no longer require undergoing the CSP? I am personally curious about the mechanics of this planned program intended to help develop renewable energy in the Philippines. 

Our government should indeed work harder to make renewable energy development a priority. After all, going for sustainable and green energy helps in bringing down our power rates. Renewable power will also provide us with energy security.

As I have been saying, renewable energy, unlike traditional sources of energy are not vulnerable to foreign exchange and world price fuel prices. This means consumers are spared from the consequences of ‘floating contracts’ where Filipinos pay for higher power prices when the peso falls against the dollar or when coal or oil prices in the world market spikes.

Developing renewable power bodes well for us. Traditional sources, particularly oil and coal are finite sources. What then happens when these power sources are low in supply or worse are already unavailable?

There’s also the RCOA that’s also meant to help the sector by allowing a number of customers to source their preferred service provider.  Unfortunately, only those with  750 kilowatts or higher monthly demand can be considered contestable customers, thus restricting the number of consumers that has the option of choosing their power source.

So, yes we can look at other programs to help the RE sector prosper. Unfortunately, DOE has a track record of showing its lack of appreciation on the many benefits of renewable power for the Filipino consumers. 

We have to keep in mind that sometimes new programs, entities or rules can wait. They may not even be necessary. All we have to do is to simply review current regulations and practices rather than find new ones. And if we as a nation want to heed the orders of the President to develop cleaner and sustainable sources of power, then we urgently need to review our current regulations. 

References:

https://www.epa.gov/greenpower/utility-green-tariffs

https://www.comparethemarket.com/energy/information/energy-tariffs-explained/

Coal plants’ share in 2017 energy mix expands to over 35%

Amid fears of global economic recession, let’s worry about high power rates, too

Those who regularly read the business news would know that the US-China trade war has been hogging the headlines way back in 2017.

Two years ago, the United States launched an investigation into China’s trading policies and imposed tariffs on Chinese products worth billions of dollars a year after. Beijing, naturally retaliated.

The trade war between these two countries escalated after China allowed its currency, the Yuan to depreciate for the first time in over 10 years. This move was criticized and China was called a currency manipulator by the US.

I will not delve on how the trade war will place the Philippines in an advantageous or disadvantageous position. I leave that to economists.

Now, perhaps you are wondering why am I writing about this trade war when my expertise is the energy sector?

The answer is simple. The trade war, just like other major global developments in the Philippines  hurt the Philippine peso since global issues such as the spat between the US and China affect emerging economies such as ours.

For example, the peso sank to Php51.955 from Php51.79, down by 16.5 centavos on August 6 after the US tagged China as a currency manipulator. A trader quoted by a Business Word report said that “The peso weakened significantly due to demand for safe-haven currencies after the US Treasury Department labelled China as a ‘currency manipulator,’ further heightening current tensions between the US and China.”

According to S&P Global Ratings director Andrew Wood early August,  the Philippine Peso has been weakening as the trade and currency war of the two giant economies makes currencies vulnerable to downward pressure. “The Philippines and India have relatively strong external profiles, stronger than Indonesia, but they have proven to be relatively vulnerable when we do have these global contagion effects in the currency markets in the past. So the peso and Indian rupee could also be somewhat vulnerable to downward pressure,” Wood said

But the row between China and the US is not the only thing that’s affecting the performance of the Philippine Peso against the dollar.

peso dollar

Some forecasts say that the peso could be on the softer side and go as low as Php 53.50 against the dollar. Photo c/o Business world

For example, worries over a pending global economic recession last August 15 weakened the peso where trading day ended from 52.498 to a dollar from a 52.28 close a day before. “The peso depreciated as a potential U.S. recession pushed investors towards risk aversion,” a BPI Research market report said. It added  that a possible US economic slowdown and reports that Germany posted zero economic growth in the second quarter also caused the Pesos’ depreciation.

Some forecasts say that the peso could be on the softer side and go as low as Php 53.50 against the dollar or even slight below the P54 level if worries over a global economic recession worsen. For example, Mizuho Bank head of economics and strategy Vishnu Varathan as quoted by ABS-CBS news said that “For most of the next half, we’re looking at the peso on the softer side,” he said.

So, what does a weak peso mean for Filipino consumers?

As I have been pointing out, fluctuations to the peso dollar exchange will hurt the Filipino consumers.

I have discussed this at length in many posts. But let me reiterate that our energy planners love for a “floating” power sales agreements (PSAs) and reliance on traditional power sources can cause high energy rates. This is all thanks to the pass-on costs provision in our PSAs where consumers shoulder the cost of the falling peso against the dollar. Unfortunately, our reliance on coal, which we mostly export and pay for in US dollars means that we will pay higher electricity rates when the peso falls against the dollar. It also does not help that our independent power producers also have the majority of their billings in dollar denomination.

Yes, one can argue that the peso may also strengthen despite the forecasts of analysts. But it could also go the other way around.  Unfortunately, there’s no way of exactly predicting what will happen to the local currency. And there lies the problem with the floating PSAs. It leaves consumers in a vulnerable position.

So, again, we must revisit having fixed price contracts work for us as we watch how the Philippine peso fares against the US dollars amid the chaos in the global economy. Let us see the good in letting the consumers pay the  same amount for their electric bill for a specified period regardless of the performance of our local currency. This will ease the burden of consumers who pay more for energy when the peso is weak.

And while we’re at it, helping develop our renewable energy sector will also ease the burden of the Filipinos. Doing so will reduce the need to import traditional power sources that trade in US dollars.

Let the economists and analysts debate on what the government should do in light of the on-going trade wars and possible global economic slowdown. In the meantime, our energy planners should take a closer look at how these global issues will affect power rates and how we can ease the burden of consumers  by turning to renewable energy which can peg electricity rates at a fixed prices and eliminate the need to import raw materials for energy production.

I believe the world will be going towards energy independence as a goal for every household and community.  The reliance on big thermal plants and high voltage transmission networks will wane in the coming years.  Increasingly, electricity consumers will want to have more control of how and when they consume power in their homes.

This development of taking “power in their own hands” will mean that electricity consumers will be able to delink forex and global price risks.  And maybe with more independence, other supply and demand markets, other than WESM, may spring up independently.

Let me discuss these possibilities in my next blog.

References:

https://news.abs-cbn.com/business/08/19/19/peso-seen-in-p5150-p5350-vs-1-range-on-global-recession-worries

Peso sinks further on yuan move

Peso to trade sideways

https://www.philstar.com/business/2019/08/07/1941135/philippines-vulnerable-us-china-trade-tension-currency-war

https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1077961

Revisiting Laudato Si (“Praised Be”)

In July 2015,  Pope Francis released the Laudato Si or Praised Be, an encyclical letter on climate change and environment.

The head of the Catholic Church through the 180-page encyclical stressed that climate change is a major problem that all of us should address.

“Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.”

The Pope warned us of the dangers the world faces if we fail to take care of the environment better, paying extra attention to the possible suffering of those from developing countries.

“Will probably be felt by developing countries in the coming decades. Many of the poor live in areas particularly affected by phenomena related to warming, and their means of subsistence are largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystemic services such as agriculture, fishing, and forestry.”

The Pontiff simply didn’t criticize humankind for the negligence in protecting the environment. He also offered solutions, saying that replacing traditional sources of energy with renewable energy will go a long way in helping to decarbonize the world.

“We know that technology based on the use of highly polluting fossil fuels – especially coal, but also oil and, to a lesser degree, gas – needs to be progressively replaced without delay. Until greater progress is made in developing widely accessible sources of renewable energy, it is legitimate to choose the lesser of two evils or to find short-term solutions.”

It’s been four years since Pope Francis released the Laudato Si. And the Pontiff continues to campaign for the world to fulfill its obligation of protecting God’s gift, the earth.

Last June, the Pope met with the top executives of global oil and gas corporations in the Vatican where he insisted that carbon pricing is essential to address global warming. He also demanded climate change deniers be open about what science has to say.

The head of the Catholic Church urged to penalize polluters as the word needs a “radical energy transition” away from carbon to save the earth.

The meeting last June is not the first time Pope Francis met with leaders of gas and oil companies. He did the same last year where he said that the continuing search for fossil fuels is “worrying.”

Fortunately, the Catholic Church is heeding the Pope’s call for drastic action and shift to cleaner forms of power.

For one, the Filipino Catholics are working to heed the Pope’s call. A few weeks ago, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) announced that it will stop supporting fossil fuel energy source. Dioceses in the Philippines would instead place their money in renewable energy. Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA), called this decision “A milestone for the Church ecology advocacy.”`

He added that divestment from fossil fuel is part of the CBCP 10-point agenda in following the Pope’s call in the Laudato Si. This comes after the Vatican asked CBCP what the CBCP is doing to respond to the encyclical.

And it’s not just the Catholic Church that seems to be following the words of the Pontiff.

In the United Kingdom, some 5,500 Anglican churches have shifted to renewable energy. According to Christian Aid, 15 Anglican Cathedrals are now using 100 percent green tariffs.

The Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam also the Church of England’s lead bishop on the environment said that the Anglican Church’s move for cleaner power is due to the church’s recognition that climate change is “one of the great moral challenges of our time”.

“They are also giving a boost to clean energy which is essential to reduce harmful carbon emissions,” Holtam added.

It is heartwarming to see the Catholic Church and other religions recognize the need for drastic actions in saving our planet. More so, when we aren’t making many dents in saving the planet by limiting energy-related global dioxide emissions.

A report by the International Energy Association (IEA) showed that global energy-related CO2 emissions increased by 1.7 percent in 2018, the highest rate of growth since 2013. “We have seen an extraordinary increase in global energy demand in 2018, growing at its fastest pace this decade,” said Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director.

This data only shows that we have to act swiftly and shift to renewable energy as the power sector accounts for at least two-thirds of the energy-related CO2 emissions globally.

We then must act now as Pope Francis urged us to do so four years ago: 

“We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth. The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world. The effects of the present imbalance can only be reduced by our decisive action, here and now.”

Addressing climate change and the Pope’s call will go beyond just adopting renewable energy and other forms of sustainable energy. I think we need to take a closer look  at how our economies work. We need to delve into the disparity between the rich and poor in the world and why this gap continues to grow. Can capitalism as we know today be the right economic structure that allows the world to address climate change?  Or is it the source of the problem in the first place?

We need to ponder and wonder more if we want to leave to our children and grandchildren a cleaner and more sustainable planet Earth. 

References:

https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/700666/phl-catholic-bishops-vow-to-turn-their-backs-on-dirty-energy-sources/story/

https://www.aljazeera.com/ajimpact/pope-world-climate-emergency-demands-radical-energy-transition-190614174457798.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/03/over-5500-churches-in-the-uk-embrace-renewable-energy.html

Race Against The Clock

 

A study revealed that 77 percent of the major cities in the world will experience drastic changes in climate conditions by 2050. I won’t be around by then but my grandchildren will be around. So this is important to me. 

Crowther Lab, a research group based in Switzerland studied the impact on 250 major cities’ temperature if the world’s temperature reaches 2 degree Celsius. The study is the first global analysis of the likely changes in climate conditions in major cities due to global warming.

The researchers found out that a fifth of the world’s cities will see unprecedented climate changes including intense dry and rainy seasons. These would include Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Madrid, Seattle, London, and Moscow to name a few.

Just how drastic will the changes be? The study says summers and winters in Europe will be warmer with 3.5 degree Celsius to 4.7 degree Celsius average increases. Another way of imagining it is by measuring the temperature change, which is by thinking that a city would shift by 620 miles further south.

Naturally, the cities farthest away from the equator will experience the most changes in the average temperature. But those near the equator or in the tropics such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta will feel the strongest impacts of climate change. 

These changes don’t bode well for major cities says Jean Francis-Bastin, the lead author of the report. “It is a change in climate conditions that is likely to increase the risk of flooding and extreme drought,” said Francis-Bastin. 

The Philippines and not just Manila will be greatly affected by climate change, too.

The Global Peace Index 2019, released last June showed that the Philippines is the country most susceptible to hazards due to climate change.

The study revealed that 47 percent of our country’s population is located in areas highly exposed to climate hazards such as tropical cyclones, tsunami, floods, and drought.

Our Southeast Asia neighbors such as Bangladesh, Myanmar, Indonesia also made it to the list of the countries being at the highest risk because of climate change.

Manila also ranked seventh with most risk to a single hazard while our neighbor, Vietnam landed the first spot for this category.

Indeed, the Philippines and the rest of the world are constantly reminded to take serious efforts in limiting the effects of climate change. And we need to act fast as stressed by Francis-Bastin: “We definitely and very quickly need to change the way we are living on the planet. Otherwise, we are just going to have more and more droughts, flooding and extreme events.”.

Fortunately, nations responded to these warnings as early as 2015 by committing to limit global warming to just 1.5 c in the 2015 Paris Climate Change accord. But how is the world faring?

Unfortunately, the world’s temperature continues to increase. In 2018, the world recorded its fourth warmest year on record. 

But this is not to say that nations are not making any progress at all in decarbonizing the world. On the contrary, data show increases in investments in renewable energy and rapid developments in the use of clean power around the world. 

For example, the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) showed that 2018 was the fifth consecutive year that investments in renewable energy exceeded the $300 billion mark.

Similarly, the Business Renewables Center of Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) also showed that in 2018, the United States renewables market has almost doubled its figure of corporate off-site deals since 2015

As most know, shifting to renewable power is one of the best ways to help limit the effects of climate change. But are these investments and developments enough? 

Apparently not, says the United Nations Development Goals report 2019 after tagging climate change as “the defining issue of our time and the greatest challenge to sustainable development.”

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Liu Zhenmin, in his introduction to the report stressed that cutting greenhouse gas emissions is the most crucial task to mitigate the effects of climate change. He noted that “As we are already seeing, the compounded effects will be catastrophic and irreversible: increasing ocean acidification, coastal erosion, extreme weather conditions, the frequency and severity of natural disasters, continuing land degradation, loss of vital species and the collapse of ecosystems.”

Unfortunately, current scenarios and actions to help the environment are not enough. The world may be seeing an increase in renewable investments but the  UN report emphasized that investments in fossil fuels still outpaced the $781billion recorded in 2016 as the figure is significantly higher than the  $332.1 billion investments in clean power in 2018.

Indeed, we are racing against time if we want to save our environment for the future generations. Drastic actions must be taken. The UN report emphasized it best by saying “Unprecedented changes in all aspects of society will be required to avoid the worst effects of climate change.”

References:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-kuala-lumpur-unprecedented-climate-change-2050-11710274

https://solarindustrymag.com/report-2018-a-record-breaking-year-for-corporate-renewable-energy-deals/

https://about.bnef.com/blog/clean-energy-investment-exceeded-300-billion-2018

https://news.abs-cbn.com/spotlight/06/15/19/country-most-threatened-by-climate-change-study-says-its-philippines