Study points to health benefits from use of renewable energy

In Photo: National Renewable Energy board member Ernie Pantangco (from left), Dr. Jonathan Buonocore, European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Vice President Henry Schumacher and Dr. Ramon Lorenzo Luis Guinto

Harvard University climate, energy and health program leader claims the use of renewable energy (RE) can provide substantial health benefits.

Speaking before the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Energy Smart Forum, dubbed “Powering Health: A Forum on the Health Benefits of Renewable Energy,” Dr. Jonathan Buonocore said his group has quantified the health and environmental benefits from the efficient use of energy.

“While the study is specific to the United State, it does highlight important drivers for benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy that should apply everywhere. These projects can have substantial benefits to both public health and the climate,” Bounocore said.

The study used a complex set of stimulations and models to quantify and monetize the benefits in the US from the use of RE sources.

Buonocore’s study estimated the “monetized public health and climate benefits” to be at least $210 million a year. On a per-megawatt-hour basis, these figures translated to $14,170, depending on the extent of use of traditional fossil fuel or RE in the study areas.

The health benefits in the study showed a reduction in the mortality and sickness due to respiratory and cardiovascular issues. Climate benefits, on the other hand, included the economics from reduced disruption in farming, fishing and forestry activities due to adverse impact associated with climate change.

“To estimate the public-health benefits of reduced emissions of SO2 and NOx, the study employed a model built from widely used and well-validated models of air-pollution chemistry and transport, as well as the extensive body of scientific literature showing how air-pollution increases mortality risk,” he said.

On the other hand, to assess the climate benefits, Buonocore said they used the social cost of carbon as a model.  It calculated the benefits of CO2 reductions, in terms of a subset of impacts that are well-characterized, including effects on the sea-level rise, agriculture, some climate-related diseases, and economic impacts on climate-dependent economic sectors, such as forestry and fisheries. Health Care Without Harm-Asia’s Dr. Ramon Lorenzo Luis Guinto agreed that using RE can prevent early deaths among Filipinos due to respiratory illnesses. He said results from the study done by Buonocore’s group are applicable here in the country.

“The model that they used in the study made sure that the condition is controlled. The finding it is universally applicable. The country has tremendous renewable energy potential. So imagine if we decide to proceed in that direction,” Guinto said.

Guinto added that the health sector, particularly the Philippine Medical Association, strongly supports the study and the use of RE because of its tremendous impact on health and the climate.

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