All green | The Manila Times
Over the past week, much of my attention has been directed to the Asian Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) 2022, an annual conference organized by the Asian Development Bank (AfDB) since 2006, and which is is held this year online, as has become the way of things in our post-Covid world.
By the way, I don’t like this way of doing it, and I’m sure I don’t need to go into a long explanation about it, because I don’t remember ever hearing anyone say that he preferred having meetings or attending events via Zoom (or Webex, or Microsoft Teams, or whatever your favorite poison) over normal human interactions. I miss things like having to put on shoes and drink shitty conference room cups of coffee, and I think having those things taken away from us makes us poorer, less productive communicators.
Not to mention the rather high emissions cost of video conferencing, which equates to between 150 and 1,000 grams of carbon dioxide per connection per hour, which, in turn, is a rather unpleasant and ironic side effect of a conference on clean energy. But I digress.
This year’s ACEF included more than a dozen sessions spread over four days, covering a variety of topics ranging from technology, finance, policy and regulation, and social concerns. Many of these discussions were interesting and worth revisiting at some point. What seemed to me to be most important to take away, however, was “the big message”, articulated to some extent by AfDB President Masatsugu Asakawa and other prominent speakers, and otherwise functioning as a clear common thread throughout the rest of the sector. – and thematic discussions.
First, there is a sense of urgency to act on the climate that is much more intense than it has been so far. Climate change has always been a pressing concern, but until now it has always been characterized as a problem that must be tackled to avoid bad consequences for the world within a generation or two. Now, the prevailing understanding is that these consequences have already happened and that the worst-case scenarios are not 50 or 100 years in the future, but less than 10 years, and even that might be optimistic.
Second, because there is an urgent need to make substantial progress quickly – perhaps within three to five years – governments need to radically revamp their policy and regulatory frameworks to accelerate clean energy adoption. This means for the Philippines, for example, that there is no more of that nonsense found in the current “energy plan” which mandates an arbitrary proportion of clean and renewable energy – currently 35% by 2030 and 50% by 2040. Clean energy should be the default choice, and the sole focus of planning from now on.
In addition, other regulatory policies and habits that work against the rapid development of innovative energy solutions need to be corrected. Familiar examples of these are policies aimed at minimizing disruption to the conventional energy sector, such as limits on net metering and distributed energy systems, and the reluctance to allow expansive development of energy markets. energy, and just plain bad habits such as snail speed enforced even the most basic Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) tasks.
Finally, a discussion that particularly stood out to me was the need for countries to rapidly increase their clean energy research and manufacturing capabilities, not only for the good of the economy, but perhaps even more important for energy security. Of the renewable energy options, for example, solar power is the cheapest, easiest to deploy, and most versatile, but the Philippines has very little capacity to supply its own components. This, in a sense, simply trades one energy vulnerability for another, from reliance on imported fossil fuels to imported solar components. It’s a relatively simple problem to fix – the main ingredients of a solar panel are silicon and copper, two things the Philippines has in more than ample supply – but it will take some serious intention to get it right.
Despite the feeling that we really are on the brink of calamity, a perception that was not so widespread two or three years ago, there are reasons for optimism, even optimism. None of the Philippines’ clean energy challenges or problems are insurmountable, and institutions such as the AfDB, World Bank and other multilateral development banks have made vast financial resources available for the transition. . The biggest problem, and the only one that may not be overcome, is finding the political will and changing destructive preconceptions that energy development should be market-driven and non-disruptive.
On a lighter, unrelated note, just to mark Father’s Day with something a little happier, if you thought our sunsets have been particularly colorful over the past few weeks, you’re not mistaken. New research recently published on the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano in January attributes the bright and unusually colorful sunrises and sunsets to the massive amount of hydrogen sulfide blasted into the upper atmosphere by the volcano. , which is now believed to be the largest eruption on Earth since the 1883 Krakatoa explosion in Indonesia.
The effect is more pronounced in the southern hemisphere, but since we are relatively close to the equator, we also benefit from it here. Scientists don’t know how long this will last, as they initially underestimated the size of the eruption; the colorful sky may last a few more weeks, or persist for a few years.
In the interest of full disclosure, I mainly added this news because I like to say “Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai”. My old favorite volcano name was “Popocatepetl” (the one not far from Mexico City), but it has now been removed from the list. In my opinion, for a country with no shortage of volcanoes – one is one too many, as far as I’m concerned – the Philippines really needs to step up the volcano naming department.