Communication for Sustainable Development

Gov’t focus turns to ‘clean’ energy as oil prices spike

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 5:  U.S. Secretary of En...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
An economic giant like the United States is not immune to the volatility of global crude oil prices.
And while the United States can well support its fuel requirements for now, it has turned its attention to building alternative fuel sources and move toward an efficient yet cleaner and more sustainable economy.

Speaking before the recent 2011 National Electricity Forum here, US Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu admitted that as global oil prices continued to increase, the “demand for clean power is the likely future.”

Clean power from the so-called renewable energy resources are now largely being harnessed elsewhere, like in Western Europe and in Asia, specifically in China, Korea and Japan.

Chu told delegates that the United States should do the same as these countries and venture more into renewable energy, although there will be risks in harnessing clean energy as compared to the traditional fossil fuels.

Among the challenges the US energy sector will face are the unreliability of renewable energy sources and cybersecurity, he said.

Despite these challenges, Chu stressed the importance of turning to clean energy. This will not only help the United States achieve its environment sustainability goals, it will also help ensure economic development and energy security.

According to an earlier release, the US DOE hopes to raise the contribution of clean energy power to 80 percent by 2035 from 40 percent.

“The United States faces a choice today: Will we lead in innovation and out-compete the rest of the world, or will we fall behind? To lead the world in clean energy, we must act now. We can’t afford not to. Through our investments, we are laying the groundwork for the nation’s future prosperity and security,” Chu had explained.

In fact, the proposed $29.5-billion budget of the US DOE for fiscal year 2012 does not only target to put the “nation on the path to reach a bold but achievable goal of generating 80 percent of America’s electricity from clean sources by 2035” but also aims to push for the “development and deployment of clean and efficient energy technologies to reduce our dependence on oil, accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and promote economic competitiveness.”

In a developing country like the Philippines, its energy concerns are surprisingly similar to that of the United States, despite the vast differences in the economy and fiscal landscapes of the two countries.

Being largely dependent on fuel imports, the Philippine government, too, is looking at renewable energy sources such as biomass, geothermal, solar, hydro, ocean energy and wind, to secure the country’s energy security in the long run.

“The demand for energy will continue to increase as the country pursues the sustainable development path ... Renewable energy will not only help address this demand but also provide the necessary balance between development and environmental sustainability. The government so far has generated investment commitments of over P80 billion for RE projects,” said Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras.

Almendras had said that the country would need investors to infuse P902.5 billion to fully develop the country’s renewable energy sources. Based on the indications made by prospective project proponents, at least 8,000 megawatts are expected to be generated from such sources between now and 2030.

But the Philippine energy chief admitted that since the country is currently expecting possible power supply shortages this year and onwards, the development of renewable energy sources may go down relative to the development of fossil fuel resources such as coal, until such time that the country’s power supply has stabilized.

“With these coal fired plants coming in, the percentage of green generation will drop, it will fall below 50 percent, instead of moving forward in the direction of going more green or renewable. We’re actually falling back, so our percentage is going down,” Almendras earlier said.

“So as a target, we’ve asked all renewable energy developers to take seriously the challenge since, hopefully by 2016, the energy shortage that we have will be solved, then all new generation thereafter should have a larger percentage of renewables so we can regain our percentage. I think we can reasonably hit 65 percent renewable by 2020,” he added.

Ideally, Almendras said, the development of local renewable energy sources should already start around 2013 or 2014 so the country would be able to benefit from such sources from 2016 and beyond.

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