Salceda: Solar alone won’t cut it; include nuke in energy mix

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THE House Committee on Ways and Means chairman on Thursday told Department of Energy officials that nuclear energy must be part of the country’s energy transition plans, adding that, “in a country without a national land use plan, and which is both densely populated and with a shrinking rural sector, overreliance on solar power for clean energy is dangerous.”

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda made the statement following the Shell Resellers Conference on Thursday.

“I am telling you, nuclear is inevitable,” said Salceda, the principal author of the proposed Comprehensive Nuclear Energy Regulation Act.

“Solar currently requires 1 hectare per megawatt. That’s one hectare gone for agriculture, since agri lands are also the ones most ideal for solar power. You use it on water, same goes. That’s one hectare gone that could have gone to fisheries,” Salceda added.

Under a clean energy scenario, the Philippines needs 93,482 MW in additional installed capacity, around 45,000 of which is expected to come from solar power.

“One, it’s not baseloadable yet. So, it’s not a perfect substitute to coal or fossil fuel. Two, it requires a lot of land, and for a country without a national land use plan; for a country with LGUs that require heavy licensing processes for land reclassification, that makes renewable energy supply inelastic—it simply can’t respond fast enough to increases in demand. As a result, you have high power costs,” he said.

“You have investors interested in putting up big wind projects, but they’re asking for FIT—which of course will increase, rather than decrease, power costs, at least in the short term,” he added.

In that kind of situation, Salceda said the country must include nuclear energy is a policy priority.

Explore Taiwan as source

Salceda also urged the government to explore talks with Taiwan on the use of nuclear plants it is set to retire.

“The Maanshan NPP is 375km away from Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte. It’s at the very tip of Taiwan. It is owned by Taipower—the NAPOCOR of Taiwan,” he said.

“It will be decommissioned between 2024 and 2025. And the useful life is 60 years. In other words, if we can negotiate its use, we don’t need to put up new plants. Only submarine transmission between North Luzon and Taiwan,” he added.

Salceda said that also solves the NIMBY or Not in My BackYard attitude of many politicians towards nuclear power.

Maanshan, Salceda adds, is a 1900 MW plant which, if used for Philippine needs, can lower power cost by as much as 66 centavos per kwh.

“The cost is just 5 pesos per kwh,” Salceda said. “That is very crucial. We have millions of excess labor—as much as 12 million people—in agriculture and related sectors. They share around 9 percent of GDP, and that’s a recipe for certain poverty. If we don’t lower power costs, we won’t be able to create the light industries needed” to move them out of poverty, Salceda said.