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Osmeña: Cebu's renewable energy sources             Article found in

By Antonio V. Osmeña

THERE is an urgent need to develop and carry out a carefully integrated set of short-, intermediate- and long-term energy plans over the next 50 years for the inhabitants of Cebu.

These plans will allow the replacement of dwindling supplies of crude oil and, perhaps, natural gas with a new mix of affordable and environmentally acceptable energy sources.

Affordable supplies of crude oil and possibly natural gas will probably begin running out between 2020 and 2060. During this period, the world will face massive economic disruption, unless it has significantly improved the efficiency of use of primary energy resources and shifted to a mix of affordable and environmentally acceptable energy resources.

However, an increasing number of Cebuanos who are fed up with waiting for government to act are redefining politics. For example, while elected officials argue over national energy policy, bow to special interests and spend much of their time playing politics, a growing number of Cebuanos are decreasing their personal reliance on such centralized energy sources.

Instead of buying gas for heating, they are heating their water with energy from the sun. They are also driving fuel-efficient cars or riding bicycles to work. Some get the electricity they need from solar photovoltaic cells mounted on the roof.

In taking these personal steps toward energy self-reliance, these individuals are also acting politically by reducing the need for imported oil and for building more coal-powered power plants to generate electricity. But then most people who wish to be self-reliant do not have access to the application of renewable energy resources.

There is a need for the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to be dynamic in developing Cebu�s renewable energy resources.

People must have technological access to: (1) direct solar energy from producing heat and electricity, (2) direct solar energy for producing high-temperature heat, (3) using photovoltaic cells to produce electricity from direct solar energy, (4) indirect solar energy from ocean waves, (5) indirect solar energy from thermal gradients in oceans, (6) indirect solar energy from wind, (7) indirect solar energy from biomass, (8) tidal power and hydrogen fuel, and (9) energy conservation.

Local government officials should have a master plan to develop an intermediate- and long-term energy strategy through an enabling act with tax incentives to encourage the private sector to invest in the development of Cebu�s renewable energy resources. For example, hydrogen (H2) to fuel cars can be produced from seawater to provide an almost infinite supply of hydrogen gas, in sharp contrast to fossil fuels.

The Worldwatch Institute estimates that a combination of wind farms and smaller wind machines used by individual homeowners, farmers and businesses that occupy 0.5 percent of the world's land could provide 20 to 30 per cent of the electricity needed by many countries and about 12 percent of the world�s electricity.

Wind experts estimate that with a vigorous development program, wind energy could provide 13 to 19 percent of the projected demand for electricity in our country. Huge wind turbines could be installed in many coastal areas and produce electricity that will be used to generate hydrogen gas from the electrolysis of seawater, which could be transported in special tankers or perhaps by pipeline for use as fuel for homes, factories, and cars. This supply all the heating needs of industrial regions.

The minimum average annual wind speed, normally practical for a small home wind system, is about 16 to 19 kilometers per hour. Larger wind turbines are designed to operate at wind speeds between 17 and 58 kilometers per hour.

It is imperative that government extend tax credits to those who utilize renewable energy. The fairly high initial cost of installation can be reduced by the 40 to 70 percent tax credits from the National Government. Further savings can be obtained by using reconditioned wind turbines.