First Gen bats for decarbonized infra development, smart cities

Published February 5, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Myrna M. Velasco

Touting that businesses can either be a destructive force or a powerful agent for regenerative change, Lopez-led First Gen Corporation is opting for the latter as it pushes for the developments of decarbonized, resilient and socially-inclusive infrastructure facilities; as well as on pioneering the integration of smart cities.

As the company had been bestowed the “Partner of the Industry Award” by the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. (SEIPI), First Gen Chairman Federico R. Lopez apprised industry and business leaders that the country’s pathway to a decarbonized future must strategically start with the electricity sector; then that transformation must subsequently spread across the infrastructure value chain – including the transport sector, then buildings and eventually in the metamorphosis of communities.

First Gen Corporation Chairman and CEO Federico R. Lopez (Photo credit: https://www.firstgen.com.ph)

“Hopefully, we focus on prosperity for all, especially those left behind, rather than on simply aiming to raise GDP (gross domestic product) growth per se. Then very importantly, we begin to reimagine and redesign our infrastructure and way of life for a changed world,” he stressed.

As a critical first step, Lopez said “we could carve out a definitive path to a decarbonized electricity system in the country that charts a transition from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas today to renewables, storage batteries and energy efficiency technologies.”

At this point in the energy transition, he indicated that gas is still highly essential in keeping the lights on, because it complements the intermittency of renewable energy “because of their flexibility and speed, and are useful in ushering the age of pure renewables/batteries.”

Further into the future, the First Gen chairman noted the renewables/battery storage coupling could eventually lean on clean hydrogen, if experiments on this technology would lead to commercial fruition.

Then from greening the electricity grid, Lopez emphasized that this will likewise “open up the electrification of transport,” which today is practically propped by polluting diesel and gasoline products. With electric mobility, he vouched that “the improvement in our urban air quality would be tremendous.”

He similarly pitched that beyond the deployment of clean technologies in the energy sector, government leaders and policymakers must equally pay keen attention to the design of buildings in the country, primarily on “how we cool them, how we insulate them, district cooling, what refrigerants we use, how we dispose of those refrigerants,” as among the primary concerns.

“Beyond designing for a decarbonized world, just as important would be planning for resilience amidst a harsher climate,” hence, according to Lopez, it is preeminent that “we design our cities with resilient infrastructure like underground power lines and distributed generation,” as well as, set circularity “in the use of water, rainwater and waste.”

In parallel, Lopez is advocating for the institutionalization of the so-called “15-minute cities”, which epitomize the kind of smart cities that whip up social integration, community and compassion – similar to those being planned and developed in the progressive urban centers of the first world, such as in Paris, Barcelona, London, Detroit, Melbourne and Portland.

In designing these cities, the First Gen chairman explained “they’ve reclaimed roads from the automobile and used them to create wider sidewalks, play areas, and bikeable, walkable spaces that incorporate nature, public art and public performances.”

He further noted these ‘smart cities’ are “characterized by having a more thoroughly integrated urban fabric that builds social cohesion among income classes and races.”  

 
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