Manila Standard : Dependence on coal must end (Part 2)

22 February 2022

By Emil Jurado | Manila Standard

“Here are reasons why we have to change.”

In my column last Friday, I wanted to cite the reasons why we should discontinue dependence on coal.

Natural gas carbon emissions are much lower than coal.

Experts see a post lock-down world bouncing back to life where demand for power would soar. This could also impact the explosive economic expansion in regions like Asia, where electricity demand is seen to increase by 4 percent in 2022, the International Energy Agency (IEA) says 50 percent of this increase will be provided by fossil fuels, pushed partly by the developing world’s dependence on coal.

Europe and other developed regions have long understood the flexibility of gas as a bridging fuel. Energy-hungry countries like China and India are slowly switching from coal to cleaner natural gas. This is a welcome development for the planet as natural gas produces roughly half the CO2 emissions of coal when combusted, my gulay.

Natural gas supplies power when renewables cannot.

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “renewables like wind farms and solar installations provide some of the cheapest electricity available, but only generate when there is sufficient sunshine or wind.”

While surplus energy from renewables can be transformed into hydrogen or stored in batteries, most emissions-free sources generate on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. Natural gas can overcome the intermittency issues inherent in renewables, fueling a stable electricity supply that can be easily switched on and off to stabilize the grid.

And while renewable generating capacity is growing fast, it is not growing fast enough. At the global level, renewables, including wind, solar and hydropower are set to increase by more than 8 percent in 2021 and 6 percent the following year, but this robust growth will only meet half of the projected growth in energy demand over this two-year period, according to the IEA. Natural gas will be needed to bridge the gap.

Natural gas offers multiple applications.

Natural gas is a flexible fuel. In addition to supporting the growth of renewables for power generation, unlike wind and solar, it also has heating, industrial, commercial and transport applications. Continued innovation in the gas sector could ensure a long-term future for natural gas.

What happens in the future is of course uncertain, which could leave potential investors nervous about commissioning new natural gas power stations – which need a 20-40-year lifespan to maximize returns. But new technologies offer a solution where it is possible to look for a hydrogen future by developing dual-fuel power plant turbines capable of combusting both natural gas and hydrogen.

My gulay, this means power plant operators can use the same turbines with natural gas today and hydrogen tomorrow. As these turbines can be fueled with clean hydrogen transformed by surplus renewables, they are both good for the environment and also help meet the growing future global demand for energy.

•••

The late PulseAsia survey confirmed the fact that the Bongbong Marcos-Sara Duterte-Carpio tandem still maintains their lead. BBM got 63 percent while Sara got 50 percent.

The second placer, Vice President Leni Robredo is far distant with only 16 percent of those surveyed. If the other prestigious and credible poll surveyor, the SWS or Social Weather Stations, affirms what PulseAsia found, well that’s it, with Bongbong and Sara as the next President and Vice President.

The next question now is, can the runaway lead of BBM still change? Of course they can, poll surveys are just snapshots of a specific point in time.

But, it could be next to impossible to overcome the difference between Bongbong and Leni.

What we should watch out for are surveys from Pulse Asia and SWS in April, the month before Election Day on May 9, 2022.

If Bongbong maintains his runaway lead over the other aspirants as found out by all surveys, then we will have a majority president. He could have the full support of both Houses or chambers of Congress.

From my experience as a journalist for over seven decades now, the presidential aspirant who gets the “masa” votes wins. Now, if the BBM-Sara tandem gets the percentage of what they are getting, well, that’s it. The game is over, Santa Banana!

•••

At long last, thanks to God, we are now getting mostly good news from the government on COVID-19. Many areas are now classified as low risk.

The IATF or the Inter-Agency for Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases is even proud that by next month, the National Capital Region could be under Alert Level 1. If it’s God’s will, it will happen that the COVID-19 pandemic will end this year.

With the Philippines almost categorized as “low risk” with foreign tourists coming in, the country will jumpstart full economic recovery. The scenario looks good. This only means that the jobless could find jobs again.