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Rising OPEC Prices Highlight Calls For Dendrothermal Energy – OpEd

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The latest OPEC (Organization of Oil Producing Countries) increase in the per barrel price of its oil by another $2 is renewing calls for the construction of more dendrothermal plants in the country which is a non-oil producing nation.

Dendrothermal plants produce energy through the burning of wood. The National Electrification Administration (NEA) said the Philippines is constructing 60 wood-fired electricity generating plants to lessen the country’s dependence on oil.

NEA said cost of electricity from oil-fired power plants is 40 centavos per kilowatt based on OPEC oil prices which resulted in the latest round of increase in the per barrel cost on imported crude. In the case of energy produced by dendrothermal plant, the cost is 15-23 centavos per kilowatt.

NEA energy consultants said the dendrothermal program of the country can easily be sustained by encouraging more people like farmers to plan ipil-ipil tree (Lucaena lucaena) that will feed the plants, provide income and help reduce global warming. Trees help cool the earth, they can provide sustainable source of income for farmers and produce energy cheaper than those from oil-fired power plants.

They explained that several government agencies are presently setting up dendrothermal power complex which include a 1,000 hectare ipil-ipil plantation, a power plant using fuelwood to geneate electricity and a system of transportation linking the tree plantation to the plant.

Earlier, energy experts from the University of the Philippines said wood transport costs is the main constraint bugging the sustainable energy industry.

The consultants said such complex will not only crank out electricity but also generate employment since about 100 farmers are needed to work in a ten-hectare tree plantation.

Construction of the power plants and the needed road systems mean more jobs in the countryside, the consultants bared.

A single three megawatt dendrothermal plant will reduce the country’s oil imports by 26,000 barrels a year. and that if 100 of such plants can be set up, the Philippines will be saving billions of dollars which the government can use to finance its socio-economic development projects.

The ipil-ipil tree was chosen by the government because it is fast growing, grows widely in the country, does not need delicate tree management and most importantly, generates a high heat in terms of BTU, a heat measurement unit.

The tree matures in only three years, meaning, it can be harvested and used for dendrothermal plant fuel.

Aside from generating electricity, the ipil iil plantstions will also contribute to the government’ reforestation program, according to the energyconsultants. It is estimated that an additional 50,000 hectares of land will be planted to ipiil-ipil in the next five years. These will be able to generate 25 megawatts of electric energy.

There are about five million hectares of unproductive land in the country at present. If converted to energy plantations, these could speed up the government’s goal of making the country self-sufficient in industrial fuel needs.

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Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan

Dr. Michael A. Bengwayan wrote for the British Panos News and Features and GEMINI News Service, the Brunei Times, and US Environment News Service. In the Philippines, he wrote for DEPTHNews of the Press Foundation of Asia, Today, the Philippine Post, and Vera Files. A practicing environmentalist, he holds postgraduate degrees in environment resource management and development studies as a European Union (EU) Fellow at University College, Dublin, Ireland. He is currently a Fellow of Echoing Green Foundation of New York City. He now writes for Business Mirror and Eurasia Review.

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