Solar can replace coal power in the PH?

There is a funny claim by the President of Solar Philippines, also son of Sen. Loren Legarda, Leandro Leviste. Reported in BWorld today.

Look at his claim: solar at P5.39/kWh vs average generation cost from different sources at P8.17/kWh.

These numbers seem like jokes. Here’s why.

1. The average generation charges of Meralco were P4.85/kWh in May and P4.37/kWh in June 2017, which already includes the more expensive peaking plants. These are almost half of Mr. Leviste’s P8.17/kWh data. Where did he get that number, perhaps from one of the inefficient electric cooperatives in the country?

See table below. These power plants are mostly coal and natural gas. #7 “Others” are mostly peaking plants from TMO, Panay, Toledo and 1590 Energy Corp., see their low dispatch rate of 13.3% and low energy share of only 1.4% of total, meaning they run only during peak hours, few hours a day.

mer gen

2. Mr. Leviste’s P5.39/kWh solar price is cool, if true. Because solar feed in tariff (FIT) or guaranteed price for 20 years is almost double that price. Solar plants that were granted FIT in 2015 would be getting P10.26/kWh this 2017.

3. Solar has low capacity factor, only about 18% (about 36% day time, zero at night time). When it’s day time but cloudy and raining, solar output will be low, capacity factor below 30%. If the solar plant will divert part of this for storage in battery so that it can produce power at night, then the already low solar output will become even lower. Plus the cost of huge batteries, they can quickly raise the price of solar to perhaps 2x of what Mr. Leviste claims.

So to answer the question in the title, the quick answer is NO. Intermittent, expensive solar energy can not replace stable, predictable and cheaper energy like coal and natgas.

Government should step back from price control in energy via assured, guaranteed high price for solar-wind-biomass-ror hydro. Also step back from priority and mandatory feed of variable renewables like wind-solar in the grid that contributes to grid instability due to intermittent, easy-come-easy-go energy sources.


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