KOTA KINABALU (9th Feb 2011): A group of NGOs here today voiced their opposition to branding any proposed coal plant in Sabah as “clean,” as no such facility exists anywhere in the world at present.
It also warned that any further attempt to force a coal plant in Sabah will close doors to the development of renewable energy in a state that not only has biomass from oil palm waste, but one that is also branding itself worldwide as a biodiversity and ecotourism hub, potentially attracting funds for clean energy options.
Green SURF (Sabah Unite to Re-Power the Future) said the term “clean coal” should refer only to the idea of building coal plants that capture carbon emissions and then store the carbon underground, stressing that the Government and Tenaga Nasional Berhad must stop misleading the public.
“This is a dream for the future, not a present reality. No plant of this kind exists anywhere in the world yet. The Sabah plant, like every other coal plant in the world, will not be able to capture and store carbon. At best, reports show such a facility will only come on stream in 2030.
“Having basic controls on emissions of certain gases and on wastewater does not make a coal plant `clean.’
“What those proposing the plant seem to be talking about when they talk about ‘clean coal’ is the fact that the plant will have certain pollution control devices that minimise the release of pollutants other than carbon dioxide,” Green SURF said in a statement issued today.
The group decided to highlight the issue of clean coal technology as repeated statements had been made on the matter by the Energy, Water and Green Technology Ministry, apart from Tenaga Nasional Berhad and Lahad Datu Energy Sdn Bhd.
Green SURF said the fact that the government has not scrapped a proposed 300 megawatt coal-fired power plant in Lahad Datu gives rise to speculation that there are plans to proceed with it. Past reports state that the proposed project will use clean coal technology.
The group said removing sulfur dioxide, a compound that causes acid rain, and use of low nitrous oxide burners, among other measures, do not merit calling the plant a “clean coal” one.
“These measures only partially control the release of pollutants they are designed to control, and do not do anything about carbon dioxide emissions.
“In no way does the inclusion of standard and usually legally-required features merit calling the power facility in Sabah a “clean coal” type. In Malaysia, we do not have the necessary stringent laws that restrict such pollution,” it said.
Green SURF said the Credit Suisse Group has estimated US$15 billion (about RM45 billion) needs to be invested in carbon capture and storage technology, while the Pew Center on Global Climate Change has stated the cost could be as high as US$30 billion (about RM90 billion).
According to a TIME Magazine article on Jan 10, 2009 titled “Exposing the Myth of Clean Coal Power,” there is currently no economical way to capture and sequester carbon emissions from coal, and that experts doubt there would ever be.
Numerous reports have also pointed out that the cost of generating power from coal using carbon capture technology will be significantly higher.
“The cost and energy just to produce “clean coal” would make using coal just or more expensive than using wind, solar and other renewables.
“We must also remember that coal can never be clean for as long as it involves removing mountains, displacing local communities in the mining process, and polluting their environment.
“Coal ash, a solid by product of burned coal contains arsenic and could bring to a rise in cancer cases by several hundred times, the US Environmental Protection Agency has reported,” Green SURF said.
The group further warned that escalating global food prices which are also impacting Malaysia, were to a certain extent caused by climate change, and that one report has estimated changes in weather could cause prices to go up by 20 per cent within this decade.
“Scientists say 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity, and that is why Green SURF is here. We want to play our part in bringing the level of carbon dioxide down from its present 389 parts per million.
Green SURF was set up over a year ago following the announcement by the Federal Government that a 300 megawatt coal plant would be built in Kampung Sinakut, Lahad Datu.
The coalition’s founding members are WWF Malaysia, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), Sabah Environment Protection Association (SEPA), Partners of Community Organisations (PACOS) and the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS) Sabah branch.