Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

We should seriously take steps to lessen our energy use

Posted by butalidnl on 15 January 2008

In the run-up towards an Energy Summit, which is supposed to be in response to both the crisis of global warming and the skyrocketing price of oil, I am disappointed to note that there doesn’t seem to be much in terms of substantial proposals on the table. The big debate on whether to exempt oil products from the EVAT is quite inconsequential – the resulting price difference would be small anyway. Besides, since the price of oil will continue rising anyway, the response should be more strategic, addressing the whole range of energy use, and not just the present. At this point, it seems that the country’s leadership does not really feel the crisis, and are just taking ineffectual, photo-op measures instead.

The crisis is real, and it calls for real measures.Steps should be taken to reduce the overall use of energy in the country. Some steps that could be taken could include:
Accelerated implementation of mass transit projects. The whole LRT-MRT system should be expanded and inter-connected. More trains should be acquired to accomodate the high demand in the present system. New mass transit systems should be planned and implemented for areas e.g. Metro Cebu, lines north and south of Metro Manila, etc. Mass transit displaces a lot of motor vehicles, as well as allows people to live a bit further from their place of work than otherwise.

Promotion of wind, solar and other alternative energy sources. Wind energy is already being tried out in the Ilocos, and it seems to be working well. It should be expanded to more areas of the country, especially since it potentially can produce electricity that is cheaper than otherwise.
Solar energy could also potentially a big source of energy for the Philippines, with the abundant sun. However, people still think that solar cells are mainly for far-flung areas which the electricity grid cannot reach profitably. This effectively keeps solar energy on the margin. Recent developments have increased the efficiency and reduced the cost of solar energy, making it more mainstream. In California, they have achieved what they call “grid parity”, meaning that the cost of producing electricity from solar cells is the same as that of the electricity grid. Given the proper government policies, it should be possible to produce a lot of solar energy from our urban areas.

Undertaking big-impact energy conservation projects. For instance, it should be possible to cut the electricity use of shopping malls and office buildings by as much as 50%, using technologies that are already available. The government only has to provide the needed push for this to take place. A lot of savings could also be made in street lights’ energy use. Government vehicles could be required to be more efficient, e.g. phasing-in more hybrid or LPG vehicles.

Given enough political will the country could drastically reduce the dependence on fossil-fuels without sacrificing economic growth. We should be able to overcome not only the challenge of the $100/barrel oil, but also any other energy crises in the future.

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