Before advancements in technology allowed humans to live more convenient lives, everything had to be done manually. Without freezers or refrigerators, early humans had to resort to all sorts of food preservation methods. Without washing machines, your ancestors flocked rivers with their washboards. Candles and oil lamps were used to provide the illumination you get from light bulbs today. A lot of time and effort was needed to accomplish simple operations or chores that you can now achieve with just a single switch.
Needless to say, electricity revolutionized the way people live. Without it, none of the modern conveniences people experience nowadays would be possible. Devices, appliances, and even homes are powered by electricity.
However, for all its importance, not everyone really cares about where it comes from, and how it is generated and distributed – which should not be the case. There is a reason why you must know more about what powers your home.
Climate change and power generation
Climate change is a real and looming threat that everyone should be aware of. Scientific studies have shown that the warming of the planet is already causing melting of ice caps, rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and extreme natural calamities. All of which can be attributed to human activity.
"Based on extensive scientific evidence, it is extremely likely that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases, are the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. There is no alternative explanation supported by convincing evidence," declared by the American Geophysical Union in 2019, among other public statements in this scientific consensus.
Greenhouse gas, which is any gaseous compound that traps and holds heat in the atmosphere, is caused by several factors—among them is power generation. ''Electricity production generates the second largest share of greenhouse gas emissions,'' reported by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 2017.
But because power is synonymous with modern life, it would help to identify which sources can relieve and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and which ones are behind its ongoing magnification. According to the International Energy Agency, ''Coal is the single biggest contributor to anthropogenic climate change. The burning of coal is responsible for 46% of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide and accounts for 72% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electricity sector.''
Energy sources in the Philippines
In the Philippines, figures from the latest power statistics of the Department of Energy in 2018 reveal that coal remains the top energy source in the country with a total power generation of 51,932 GWh (gigawatt hours), followed by combined renewable energy sources at 23,326 GWh, and natural gas at 21,334 GWh.
To break it down, power sources in the Philippines are divided into two: Fossil-based fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) and renewable energy (geothermal, hydro, biomass, solar, wind).
Coal, which has always been a major fuel used to generate electricity not just in the Philippines but worldwide, is a resource that effectively provides stable electricity. It comes at a cheaper price as well, but with health and environmental consequences. A byproduct of burning coal called coal ash has been linked to high levels of radiation and can cause respiratory infections to those exposed to it. Apart from that, it is not a renewable source, thus supply is finite.
Diesel—the most common oil-based energy source in the Philippines—makes for a decent supply of electricity as it is highly efficient. But is it sustainable and recommendable for Philippine households?
Considering how the Philippines is a disaster-prone area and power outages are more frequent than expected, it is important to take note that diesel generators or power stations—whether mobile or immobile—bring risks to human health due to the toxic air contaminants with carcinogenic compounds it supposedly releases.
Apart from that, diesel's selling price is higher than other oil-based sources in general.
Natural Gas, the cleanest of all fossil fuels, is affordable. Moreover, it is environmentally friendlier as it emits up to 60% less carbon dioxide than coal, cutting down harmful emissions while guaranteeing a consistent and stable supply of power. It also adequately complements other renewable energy sources as it can easily back up power plants, starting them up in as fast as 15 minutes.
Renewable energy, on another hand, has been on the rise in the past decade and shows no signs of slowing down. This type of energy is believed to be sustainable since it comes from natural resources that can be replenished quickly. On top of that, these energy sources are known to be kinder to the environment.
Leading the scene are geothermal and hydroelectric power, due to the country's geography which results in an abundance of volcanoes and bodies of water.
Geothermal energy is heat derived within the sub-surface of the earth. Depending on its characteristics, geothermal energy can be used for heating and cooling purposes or be harnessed to generate clean electricity. It is a renewable energy source because the water is replenished by rainfall, and the heat is consistently produced by the earth. Lauded for its high efficiency, geothermal power sustainability is affixed to a power plant system that requires little to no maintenance.
Hydroelectric energy is the energy from water in motion. In order to generate electricity from this energy source, a power plant needs to be installed in an area with flowing water like that of a waterfall. This may include a dam that blocks or diverts water, and may also include one or more reservoirs. From there, hydraulic turbines are used to convert this flowing energy into mechanical energy which in turn, produces electricity. The best thing about hydropower is that adjusting water flow and output of electricity comes easy with the essential tools, making it a flexible and reliable source of electricity.
Solar power is energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. This energy is popular for its availability, with more companies seeking to offer solar solutions. Apart from being inexhaustible, solar energy power plants do not produce air pollution, water pollution, or greenhouse gases. While it is now becoming more affordable, its energy storage can still come at a fairly high price.
Wind power describes the process by which electricity is created using the wind, or air flows that occur naturally in the earth's atmosphere. Just like hydraulic turbines, wind energy is converted through the use of modern wind turbines—devices that do not produce atmospheric emissions that cause acid rain or greenhouse gases—which harness the wind to turn turbines. This energy is heavily influenced by three factors: wind speed, air density, and blade radius.
Biomass energy is also used in the Philippines, albeit the least generated renewable, but could very well be for a good reason. This is because burning wood, which is the most common method of biomass energy generation, emits more CO2 than burning coal. Not to mention the climate impact of cutting down trees to produce wood.
Role of energy corporation First Gen
With all these factors to consider, power generation company First Gen Corporation (First Gen) comes forward with its 100% Green Power, 100% Good Power commitment, which aims to raise awareness on cleaner power sources that are good for humans and the environment. With 0% coal, the company generates electricity that is both clean and reliable for existing consumers and generations to come.
First Gen is the pioneer in natural gas power in the Philippines, and is currently operating four natural gas-fired power plants: the 1000-MW Santa Rita, the 500-MW San Lorenzo, the 97-MW Avion peaking, and the 420-MW San Gabriel mid-merit power plants.
Through its subsidiary, Energy Development Corp. (EDC), First Gen owns and operates the largest vertically-integrated geothermal power company in the world, with 12 integrated geothermal power stations across the country: Leyte's 232.5-MW Malitbog, 180-MW Mahanagdong, 125-MW Upper Mahiao, 112.5-MW Tongonan, and 50.9-MW Leyte Optimization, Albay's 120-MW Bacman I and 20-MW Bacman II, Negros Island's 112.5-MW Palinpinon I, 60-MW Palinpinon II, and 49.4-MW Nasulo, and North Cotabato's 52-MW Mindanao I and 54-MW Mindanao II.
Additionally, EDC wholly owns the 150-MW Burgos Wind Project in Burgos, Ilocos Norte. Considered the Philippines' largest wind power project, it consists of 50 large scale Vestas V90 3-MW wind turbines.
In the same land area as the Burgos Wind Project, EDC also put up the 6.8-MW Burgos Solar Project.
For hydroelectric power, First Gen's subsidiary, First Gen Hydro Power Corporation or FG Hydro, owns and operates the 132-MW Pantabangan-Masiway hydroelectric power plant complex (PMHEP) located in Nueva Ecija. It is made up of two plants: the 120-MW Pantabangan hydroelectric plant and the 12-MW Masiway hydroelectric plant. FG Hydro also owns the 1.6-MW Agusan run-of-river hydroelectric power plant in Bukidnon.
When your home is powered by electricity that comes from clean and renewable energy sources like those used by First Gen, you are contributing to a collective effort in preserving our health and the environment.
First Gen's energy portfolio shows that energy can be clean, reliable, and affordable all at the same time. Citizens simply need to know about the different sources.
That is why it pays to know which energy source is used to provide your home with electricity. Does your power source contribute to climate change? Does it emit harmful substances that pose a danger to you and your family's health? Are there better sources? These are the questions that one needs to ask and demand answers for.
After all, environmental consciousness starts from identifying the source of the problem. What should follow next is proactive involvement.
Visit First Gen's official website to find out more about their power plants.
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