>MANILA, Philippines – Governor Moreno of Misamis Oriental pointed out at the Department of Energy consultation in Cagayan de Oro that the first need of the country is peace and order and the second is power or energy. Peace is of primary importance but like a bandage, it is only a hygiene factor. Without a bandage, a wound would get infected but by itself it does little to heal the wound. On the other hand energy is a requisite positive factor in promoting our economy. (Most of this column is an echo of what Sec. Almendras had to say in Cagayan de Oro last Monday, an excellent effort for transparency.) His clear objectives are availability and affordability of power. We need reliable power at affordable prices.
The first surprise for me from his talk was that nuclear power was the cheapest power available for us. Then why not go nuclear? Its drawback is that nuclear technology at the present stage requires large vessel technology and a minimal size would be a 1,400-megawatt installation. Although we could use that volume of electricity, it might be better for us to wait for the technology to progress to the point where the ideal size would be about 300 to 400 megawatts.
The second surprise was that the solution according to the secretary to our energy needs is natural gas. What makes natural gas attractive is that its price does not go up with that of oil and it is the fastest and easiest to install. Although we have not identified our own sources of natural gas, two of our neighbors, Australia and Indonesia, produce large quantities of natural gas. The need is to build depots and distribution facilities.
We have an abundance of renewable energy sources and what discriminates them for us is available technology. Solar or photovoltaic is in the midst of huge technology advances. While it costs at present P22 to produce a kilowatt-hour, it may take only another five years before this cost drops to half of that. On the other hand, hydro-electric technology is mature and its production cost will probably be about the same for the next 20 years. To set a price for solar for the Fit in Tariff would then be difficult but not for hydro electric sources. A decade ago to put up hydro power would be cost $1 million per megawatt. It is at least double that now. Solar is about the same cost per megawatt except that a solar facility can be used only eight hours on a sunny day. The problem with hydro is that it is subject to climate conditions not within human control. Mindanao, however, has complementing weather patterns. It is wet in the east when it is dry in the west. With so many volcanoes in our land we have an abundance of geothermal resources. The drawback in geothermal is the quality of water available to produce the steam. Corrosive water will shorten the life of the pipes that bring up the steam.
So far we have no oil resources of any size except west of Palawan. Both the Nido and the Galoc wells have produced oil. Both the South China Sea and Sulu Sea have tantalizing potentials. The three faults that cross our country from north to south must have burned off any petroleum in our islands east of Palawan but, on the other hand, brought minerals like gold, copper, nickel, and other mineral to the surface from the depths of the earth. These are the gifts the Lord has given us to use responsibly.