Our country is a growing economy, predicted to grow by 6.4% according to World Bank. And we all know what economic growth requires – energy, power, electricity. Ironically, some Filipinos grumble and complain over power outages and rotational brownouts, while some aggressively prevent the establishment of coal-fired power plants over environmental concerns. What do we really want – more energy or less of it?
It’s our consumer-capitalist mentality that keeps us from actually embracing sustainability. We own a phone, yet we yearn for an upgrade a month later. We own a car, yet we yearn for another one a year later. We own a 50-inch LED TV, yet we yearn for an 85-inch 4K TV three months later.
It’s our desire for progress and development that keeps our energy requirements so high, our power plants and energy sources can’t keep up with our consumption. The Philippines ranks 36th by electricity consumption and experience power shortages. We complain about high oil prices, and yet we refuse to walk a few minutes to the jeepney stop or ride a bike down to the store.
- Pinoys Can’t Afford Not to Take a Bath
Have you noticed that when there’s no electricity, there’s no water as well? This is especially true in households and establishments that use electric pumps to fill their water tanks and distribute water from wells. When there are blackouts, we also expect to have water supply interruptions because electricity is needed to run water purification and distribution systems. And my, when the fans and ACs aren’t running due to power cuts, and the day is too hot to ignore, it’s exactly the best time for taking cold showers, but what a disaster when the taps don’t give a drop!
- Pinoys Can’t Give Up Regular Transport
Transportation in the Philippines don’t mainly run on electricity, we depend on petroleum and similar fuels that aren’t renewable to get from point A to point B. The airplanes, boats, taxis, jeepneys, tricycles and private cars we ride gobble down liters upon liters of fuel each time they run. We also continue to demand better infrastructure for transport – better highways, traffic lights, well-lighted roads, etc. – which all require energy to maintain.
While electric cars are great – our electricity sources are mainly coal-fired power plants. We have yet to see solar-powered cars, but the question is can we afford or sustain them? The most viable alternative is to walk or ride a bike, but then again, Pinoys are too lazy to walk a few meters to the proper jeepney stop, let alone trek several kilometers.
- Pinoys Can’t Give Up Processed Food
Food manufacturing, storage and distribution require so much energy. Many of the food manufacturing processes are automated, which needs electricity for continuous operation and to ensure that the food is fit for consumption (think heating, pasteurization, cooling, refrigeration, etc.).
Pinoys love to eat hotdogs, hams, soft drinks, biscuits, canned goods, and other processed or manufactured food. Even fast food – we can’t possibly give up the burgers and fries, can we?
- Pinoys Can’t Give Up TV
Yes, as sure as the sun goes down in the west and goes up in the east, Pinoys are suckers for television drama. It’s amazing to know that even the humblest shack in a slum has a TV set airing the neighborhood’s favorite soap opera – and at the front of it, a crowd of drama-hungry folks.
The same goes to the richest home where every room happens to have a large TV attached to a cable network. All family members, including the house help and perhaps the house pet, are hooked to their own favorite show.
- Pinoys Can’t Give Up Karaoke
From the bustling city to the secluded barrio, there’s always a karaoke or videoke somewhere, and someone holding the microphone singing to his or her heart’s content. Out of tune maybe, but it doesn’t matter.
Once when the barrio was devoid of electricity, the folks made do with battery cells to which they hook up their karaoke and giant speakers all for the sake of karaoke singing. Now, with the continuous improvements in the remote barangays, we see households having their own power lines, and with it come a handful of must-have appliances, specifically the all-time favorite karaoke.
- Pinoys Can’t Give Up Malling
Why do large shopping malls sprout like mushrooms in a third world country such as the Philippines? It’s astonishing, to say the least. We’re a poor country and yet we can still afford the malling culture.
Perhaps one reason is that even if the only money we have is for two-way fare and some light snacks, we know we can escape the tropical heat by going to the mall enjoying the air conditioning and having a great time alone or with friends.
- Pinoys Can’t Give Up Halo-Halo & Ice Cream
When refrigeration was introduced to the Philippines, it was as if we were introduced to an elixir. We begin to crave for refrigerated goodies – iced candy, cold drinks, ice cream, ice cold beer, and of course, our favorite halo-halo.
On a hot, sunny day – a glass of cold water or a bottle of cold Coke would surely be heaven sent. Even on a rainy day, we still drink iced drinks or frozen treats, how much more when the season calls for these refreshing stuff?
- Pinoys Can’t Give Up AC / Electric Fan
We may not have a need for heating, but we do have a great need for cooling. From offices, malls and industries to households and apartments, we all have air conditioner, electric fans, or both. When there’s no electricity, we get fussy and grumpy because of the heat, and no amount of manual fanning and opening of windows can ever relieve us until power is restored and our ACs and fans are running again.
- Pinoys Can’t Give Up Mobile Gadgets
Anyone willing to give up their smartphones and say bye-bye to mobile Facebook? How about giving up mobile gaming for a day, a month, a year? Pinoys are now a modern generation highly dependent on mobile devices for communication, entertainment, information, and even work.
It’s normal for a person to own at least one mobile phone and at least one mobile computer (laptop, notebook or tablet). Some even have multiple mobile devices – one phone for each network (Sun, Smart, Globe) and multiple other gadgets. Even one year-olds have their own tablets these days!
- Pinoys Can’t Give Up Their Jobs
One of the largest consumers of electricity are manufacturing and industrial companies. Consequently, these companies are the major employers in the country, particularly those in the economic zones. Then there are high-rise offices that house mainly computers and servers that run on electricity (think BPOs).
The amount of energy these companies need can’t be supplied cost-effectively with renewables alone. There’s a reason why major industries are directly linked to diesel and coal-fired plants, and are not invested on renewables. The best thing these companies can do is implement energy-saving and sustainable measures.
No single country on earth thrives on 100% renewable energy, not even the richest countries, save for Iceland, which literally sits on both geothermal and glacial mines. Applause for those who are trying their best to increase their dependence on renewables, but for the entire Philippines to rely solely on renewable energy – it’s just not feasible, or possible, as of the moment.
From a logical perspective, renewable energy is too expensive and too variable (unreliable) for a third world country such as the Philippines. We may have seas, waterfalls, winds, and tropical sun, but the weather conditions change erratically, there’s no guarantee for sustaining enough energy to meet the country’s power requirements. Then there’s the jaw-dropping price tag of solar panels and wind turbines that take up so much space before they can supply sufficient energy for a household, let alone a small barangay.
If it were that easy, then the US would have done it, the UK, Japan or Singapore would have done it long before.
Let’s take up solar energy for instance. How much does a solar panel cost? It’s around one hundred thousand pesos, and it can only do so much as lighting a few bulbs, plus you need to spend more for batteries because the system won’t work during blackouts without batteries. A typical Pinoy household can’t afford that, unless we have good income and own a home with a sun-exposed roof or yard.
How much space does a solar system installation need to fire up a typical household? Around 100 to 500 square feet of roof space exposed to the sun from 9am to 3pm year round. Most Pinoy houses are smaller than 100 square feet, and some are living in high rise condos and apartments with literally no roof space.
Going for renewable energy is good, but right now, what we need is not the total abolishment of non-renewable energy sources, but a good mix of renewable and non-renewable energy sources, reduction of carbon emission, and greater accountability to preserving the environment, which translates to stricter implementation of environmental laws.
To sum it all up – what the Philippines need is discipline, self-discipline starting from each and every individual. Sadly, what many of us can only do is bark in public, but we never do something concrete in private. We still don’t segregate our trash. We still don’t conserve water. We still hoard energy-consuming gadgets.
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