Energy favoritism under TRAIN

* This is my column in BusinessWorld last December 19, 2017.

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The recently approved tax reform for acceleration and inclusion (TRAIN) by the Congressional Bicameral Committee exhibits a number of favoritism for some energy products and players while penalizing others. In particular, among the three fossil fuels, only petroleum products and coal received tax hike while natural gas was not mentioned and hence, not taxed.

In the VAT base expansion, expensive, unstable and intermittent renewable energy (RE) like wind-solar is again exempted (see table).

TRAIN_121917

Here are the possible implications:

  1. Since petroleum products are a public good, many goods and services will experience price hikes. Not only fares for jeepneys, buses, taxi, boats, and airplanes but also for agricultural products because most farmers now no longer use carabaos in tilling their farms, they use tractors, big and small; more farmers now also do not use human labor for harvesting rice, they use harvest + threshing combiner machines. Fishermen hardly use manual paddle boats, they use motorboats. Traders no longer use animals in transporting cargo, they use trucks.
  1. Since coal power contributes 48% of total electricity production nationwide (2016 data) despite having only 34% of total installed power capacity, electricity prices will further go up, slowly but surely. Most apologists of raising coal taxes cite the “minimal impact” on households consuming 200 kWh/month. This may be true but those households work in factories, malls and hotels, schools and universities, hospitals and residential condos, airports and seaports. These establishments consume hundreds or thousands of MWh per month, not kWh of electricity. The additional cost will be passed on to the consumers.
  1. Natural gas is also fossil fuel but it was never slapped with excise taxes. The Malampaya gas royalty is a tax on exploitation of a natural resource, the same way that the price of our imported petroleum and coal already include royalties. There is favoritism in exempting natural gas from excise tax. And there are some connections between some legislators and a known economist who pushed for high coal tax but silent on natural gas tax, with a big energy company whose main product is natural gas power generation.
  1. Exempting RE from VAT but retaining VAT for fossil fuels. These REs are enjoying favoritism three times. First, this exemption from a high 12% VAT. Second, they are given guaranteed high prices for 20 years via feed-in-tariff (FiT). Third, they are given priority or mandatory dispatch to the grid even if they are expensive. For instance, FiT for solar1 is P10+/kWh, FiT for wind1 is P9+/kWh, average coal price is P4/kWh, can go down to P1.50/kWh on off-demand hours like midnight.

Oplas-121917-768x402Soon, REs will be given a fourth privilege via the renewable portfolio standards (RPS), or minimum percentage of REs that electric cooperatives (ECs) and private distribution utilities (DUs) must purchase and distribute to households. REs then can price their electricity output high because these ECs and DUs have no choice, they will be penalized if they will not buy those expensive and intermittent REs.

Meanwhile, the DoF is often quoted as saying that “two million richest Filipino families consume 50% of oil products in the country.” This is one of the reasons why they pushed for high tax hike for oil products.

I have been intrigued by that repeated statement since last year and I am wondering what papers or studies justify this?

There are about 25 million Filipino families now. The DoF refers to the richest 2 million families, so the other 23 million middle class and poorer class Filipinos consume the other 50% of oil products.

The DoF is saying then that anytime in EDSA, NLEx, SLEx, roads in Visayas and Mindanao, etc. on average, about 50% of the cars, buses and trucks there transport the two million rich families and their goods? And that about half of domestic flights and the inter-island boat rides transport the richest two million families? This is absurd.

I think the DoF displayed dishonesty and deception in making that claim to further justify the high oil tax hikes. If such DoF claim has indeed objective basis, I am willing to apologize for this remark. For now, that statement is not backed up by solid numbers and hence, deceptive and opportunist.

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The Habito carbon tax distortion

* This is my column in BusinessWorld on December 7, 2017.

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Very often, the purpose of government is to make cheap things become more expensive. It does this via high and multiple taxes, regulatory fees, mandatory contributions, and multiple permits and bureaucracies that raise the cost of compliance. Many governments display hypocrisy when they say that they want to control inflation yet create those multiple taxes and bureaucracies that create inflationary pressure.

In the energy sector, the most recent proposed tax hikes are in the excise tax of oil products of up to P6/liter, and a big jump in excise tax of coal also known as “carbon tax” from the current P10/ton to P300/ton. The original bill by Sen. Sonny Angara proposed a hike from P10 to P20/ton but last week, an amendment by Sen. Joel Villanueva and followed up by Sen. Loren Legarda changed this to P300/ton.

Romeo Bernardo in his BusinessWorld column last Monday “The Gravy TRAIN is leaving and common sense isn’t in it” estimated that “The P300 per metric ton tax on coal will add P0.14 per kWh to our cost of generating electricity. This is on top of… feed-in-tariffs (FiT), a fancy term for what are just subsidies from the taxpayer. Combined, they will add P0.43 per KWh to our electricity bills or, at current consumption levels, a total of P40 billion for 2018.”

That is huge, a big government-instigated expensive electricity measure via legislation. In 2016, coal power constituted only 34% of total installed capacity in the country but contributed 48% of total electricity production. If the distortion created by priority and mandatory dispatch to the grid of solar-wind even if they are expensive (feed-in-tariff or FiT of up to P10+/kWh for solar and P9+/kWh for wind, more than 2x the price of coal and natgas) and intermittent, the share of coal electricity production can easily reach 50%.

The earlier proposal by former NEDA secretary Ciel Habito to impose a carbon tax of P600/ton has something to do with this. It is a lousy proposal yet it emboldened the legislators to make cheap and stable energy from coal become more expensive.

When Dr. Habito wrote his article at the Inquirer last September 2017, coal prices were around $60/ton, not $80 as he claimed. So $60 x P51/$ = P3,060/ton. His distorted proposal of a tax of P600/ton would be equivalent to 19.6% tax, not 15%. So the legislators may perhaps claim that at least they did not follow the distorted logic of P600/ton Habito proposal and they proposed only P300/ton.

I was wondering about Dr. Habito’s inconsistencies. One, he frequently advocates expensive electricity via high coal and carbon tax with about four articles at the Inquirer since June 2017. Two, no advocacy for high carbon tax of natural gas/LNG which are also fossil fuels. And three, silence in expensive electricity via guaranteed high price for 20 years also known as FiT for wind-solar. To say that the impact of the coal tax on electricity prices will be small is a cavalier attitude on price increases when he’s not the only one paying for it.

Romeo Bernardo has a point when he further wrote in his article, “why single out coal for a carbon tax? Why not a carbon tax on every fuel based on its impact on the ozone layer (which incidentally should also include LNG)?”

oplas-768x402Our electricity prices are already heavily distorted with about 10 different items and charges in our monthly electricity bill. Generation charge, transmission charge, distribution charge, supply charge, system loss charge, universal charge, metering charge, lifeline rate subsidy, taxes, FiT. For consumers such as households with about 600+ kWh consumption, industrial users, there are 2 other charges (total 12), like environmental tax.

The FiT keeps rising from 4 centavos/kWh in 2015 and now 18 centavos with a pending hike to 29 centavos/kWh late this year. Very likely it will no longer be granted so Transco will likely ask for 32 centavos/kWh or higher early next year. Add 32 centavos subsidy for expensive and intermittent renewables + 14 centavos coal tax and soon we shall have 56 centavos/kWh of unnecessary and distortionary extra cost in expensive electricity.

The continued favoritism of renewables while penalization and demonization of coal and fossil fuels is triggered by continued climate alarmism. Whether we have less rain, no rain or lots of rain; whether we have no flood or lots of flood; whether there are few storms or lots of storms, whatever weather and climate, the alarmism movement suggests that we should pay more expensive electricity, we should send more money to the UN, WB, ADB, CCC, WWF, etc. We should get more climate loans, more renewables loans, and cronyism. It is a lousy movement.

Coal power and fossil fuels are responsible for higher productivity of the poor and cheaper electricity for households and industries. We have a rising life expectancy, rising per capita GDP despite rising population because of the rise in overall human productivity, thanks to coal and fossil fuels.

The House of Representatives should counter the high coal tax proposal of the Habito-inspired Senate bill. The various tax-tax-tax under TRAIN should not add more distortions and inflationary pressure in our daily electricity consumption.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is President of Minimal Government Thinkers, a member-institute of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia.

US energy trading and implications for Asia and Philippines

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last November 16, 2017.

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Among the global leaders who attended the ASEAN Summit 2017 this week in Manila were the leaders of the US, China, Russia, Australia, and India. These five countries are also the top five in having the world’s biggest coal reserves and top five biggest coal producers.

US President Trump in particular emphasized his desire for “reciprocal trade” with Asian countries. Energy trading is a growing sector in the US as it is now the world’s biggest oil and natural gas producer (overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia in oil and gas output, respectively, since 2014) but not yet the world’s biggest exporter of these two commodities.

The subject of Trump’s energy policies was well-discussed by many scholars, researchers, and some players during the “America First Energy Conference” in JW Marriott Houston, Texas last Nov. 9, organized by the Heartland Institute and co-sponsored by many other US-based independent think tanks and research institutes.

I attended that meeting and it seems I was the only Asian in the big conference hall. I went there from a different perspective compared to American participants — to further understand how the evolving US climate and energy policies would impact Asia in the short to long-term, the Philippines in particular.

In his breakfast plenary lecture, Joe Leimkuhler, VP for drilling of LLOG, a deepwater exploration company, discussed whether the US can dominate energy as articulated by President Trump.

“Energy dominance” is defined as being able to meet all US domestic demand and export to markets around the world at a level where they can “influence the market.”

He showed lots of very interesting tables and charts including the usual Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis of current US energy environment. Among his conclusions are the following:

  1. Oil, natural gas — The US can have energy dominance in the short-term but to make it long-term, the shale revolution should be sustained and supported, and if more gas reserves are discovered.
  1. Coal — Supplies can meet domestic demand but may be unable to provide for short-term exports. There are no coal exporting facilities on the West Coast to cater to the biggest coal customers in the world, Asia. The states of Washington, Oregon, and California have passed laws preventing the construction of such facilities or delaying the permits. US coal is cheaper to produce and its quality is higher than other suppliers can give.

Many sessions in the conference provided extra information about the current weaknesses of the US coal industry despite its huge reserves.

In the session on “Peace Dividend: Benefits of Ending the War on Fossil Fuels,” Dr. Paul Driessen, Senior Fellow at the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), showed these data on electricity prices, 2017, in US cents/kWh: (a) Germany: residential 35, business and industry 18; (b) California: residential 19, business/commercial 18, industry 14.5; (c) Indiana-Kentucky-Virginia average: residential 11.7, commercial 9.5, industry 6.5. Germany, Denmark, South Australia and California have the highest concentration of wind-solar farms and they have the most expensive electricity prices in the planet.

The US has the largest coal reserves in the world estimated at 381-year supply, shown in the Reserves/Production (R/P) ratio. Russia has the highest R/P ratio because its production and consumption is smaller compared to the US. China has the second biggest reserves but its R/P ratio is small because of its huge production and consumption in million tons oil equivalent (MTOE). In 2016, half of global coal consumption was made in China alone (see table).

Coaltable_111617

Once the US can build those coal export facilities in the West Coast and various anti-coal policies in the Clean Power Plan (CPP) and CO2 Endangerment Findings are finally reversed, Asia will have more options of cheaper and higher-quality coal, aside from what they currently get from Australia, Russia, Indonesia, South Africa, and others.

The Philippines is a small player in the global coal market — very small reserves, negligible production (mostly from Semirara), and meager consumption. Yet many environmentalists seek to further restrict, if not actually prohibit Philippine coal power plants and force us to depend on undependable, unstable, unreliable, erratic, intermittent, and expensive wind-solar energy.

Governments should not pick winners and losers via legislation and multiple regulations, taxation, and selected subsidies. They should allow consumers to realize higher consumer surplus via competition and more choices in energy sources that are cheaper, stable, predictable, and dispatchable.

The German Jamaica coalition before the collapse over energy and other issues

Until middle of this month, there was still hope of a possible “Jamaica coalition” in Germany – Black flag by CDU-CSU, Yellow by FDP and Green by the Greens. I posted these thoughts and news liniks from November 18-20, 2017 in my fb wall, reposting them here.
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Before, Merkel and CDU/CSU were chummy-chummy with Obama in the anti-coal, “save the planet” drama. Then pro-coal, climate realist parties AfD and FDP surged high in the Bundestag elections last Sept, CDU and SDP suffered big time. Now Merkel perhaps realizes that Trump is correct in allowing more coal power for highly-industrialized economies like Germany so Merkel won’t give in to the Greens’ blackmail of closing all coal plants just to have a coalition govt with them. The danger — a collapse in negotiation would mean new elections.

“The Greens reject a yearly 200,000 cap on asylum seekers, which is one of the CSU’s main demands….

Merkel has proposed to reduce the capacity of coal stations, by 7 gigawatts (GW) by 2020, instead of 5 GW as proposed earlier by the CDU/CSU and FDP, but the Greens insist on a 10 GW reduction.

The FDP and the Greens are also at opposing ends over the so-called solidarity tax, a 5.5 percent tax on incomes, capitals and companies. The end of the tax is a core FDP demand, which the Greens reject.”

— from the EU observer article, Nov. 17, 2017.

Meanwhile, this is fake news from The Guardian “German Greens drop car and coal policies in coalition talks with Merkel”, Nov. 8, 2017.

“It is clear to me that we will not be able to enforce a ban on internal combustion engines by 2030,” the Greens’ co-leader Cem Özdemir told Stuttgarter Zeitung.

The Greens are also prepared to modify their demand that the 20 most polluting coal-fired power plants in Germany should be shut by 2020.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/07/greens-scale-back-policy-demands-german-coalition-talks

The Greens are outright watermelons, green outside, red inside.

Many watermelons and frequent climate junketeers and jetsetters are angry that Trump is not giving them more money for the expensive, thousands participants annual UN FCCC meeting, this year held in Bonn, Germany. Now the watermelons are extra angry that Merkel won’t give in to their demands that Germany should close down many of its coal power plants.

“Germany’s Merkel dodges coal deadline at climate talks”, Nov. 15, 2017.

“Germany generates about 40 percent of its electricity from coal, including the light brown variety called lignite that’s considered to be among the most heavily polluting fossil fuels.

“Coal, especially lignite, must contribute a significant part to achieving these goals,” Merkel said. “But what exactly that will be is something we will discuss very precisely in the coming days.”

http://www.kansascity.com/…/article184694013.html

The watermelons are a big bunch of hypocrites. They lambast coal yet super-enjoy Germany’s industrialization and its 24/7 electricity, 40% of which is from coal power. They also lambast other fossil fuel like oil yet they jetset by the thousands from many countries and cities, their airplanes and cars using oil, not water or solar.

Macron is less hypocrite when he lambasts coal because France is largely dependent on nuke power that produces about 75% of its total electricity supply. Next to Germany in having big coal power supply is Poland, which will host the UN FCCC 2018 meeting.

“Poland ready for SHOWDOWN with EU over climate change as Trump sends 74,000 tonnes of coal”, Nov. 16, 2017.

“Prime Minister Beata Szydło has warned MEPs she will “throw it back at them” if they criticise her nation’s carbon consumption at next month’s EU summit.

And that could set the scene for more stand-offs next year, when Poland hosts the next round of UN climate talks….

The ruling Law and Justice party are unapologetically pro-mining, a belief shared by US President Donald Trump, who visited the country in the summer and said: “Whenever you need energy, just give us a call.”

https://www.express.co.uk/…/poland-donald-trump-coal

“Mrs. Merkel’s failure comes despite astronomical costs. By one estimate, businesses and households paid an extra €125 billion in increased electricity bills between 2000 and 2015 to subsidize renewables, on top of billions more in other handouts. Germans join Danes in paying the highest household electricity rates in Europe, and German companies pay near the top among industrial users. This is a big reason Mrs. Merkel underperformed in September’s election.

Berlin has heavily subsidized renewable energy since 2000, primarily via feed-in tariffs requiring utilities to buy electricity from renewable generators at above-market rates. Mrs. Merkel put that effort into overdrive in 2010 when she introduced the Energiewende, or energy revolution.” (Nov. 17, 2017) https://www.wsj.com/articles/germanys-green-energy-revoltgermanys-green-energy-revolt-1510848988

“It has already announced some 6,000 job cuts in its wind power unit, due to falling prices in major markets such as India and the US.” (Nov. 16, 2017) http://www.bbc.com/news/business-42008269

‘German Conventional Turbine Producer Siemens To Slash 6900 Workers Worldwide Due To “Energiewende”’ (Nov. 18, 2017) http://notrickszone.com/…/german-conventional…/

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“At the 17-minute mark, Bernd Benser of GridLab-Berlin tells viewers that while grid operator Tennet had to intervene only 3 times in 2002 to avert grid instability, last year he says the number was “over 1000” times — or “three times daily”.

These intervention actions, known as redispatching, cost the consumer about a billion euros last year alone, says Benser. The SAT 1 voice-over warns that more power transmission lines are urgently needed if the Energiewende is to avoid “becoming a sinking ship“. (Nov. 11, 2017) http://notrickszone.com/…/german-media-report-power…/

“Chief financial officer Markus Krebber said such a unilateral move by Germany, which had just contributed to making a pan-European CO2 trading mechanisms much stricter, would harm the economy and undermine the security of supply.

“Focusing on climate protection goals alone is not enough and will lead to fatal misallocations,” (Nov. 14, 2017), https://www.reuters.com/…/quick-german-coal-exit-would

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Germany’s CDU/CSU and FDP rejecting the Greens’ anti-coal agenda

I like the development in the new German government. #1 CDU getting closer with #4 FDP (Free Democratic Party) in climate and energy policies while potential partner #5 Greens go more idiotic and watermelon-ic (green outside, red inside) in demanding zero coal power. The Greens have more commonality with #2 SDP and #6 Linke (commies). CDU is correct — if they follow the Greens for the sake of coalition-majority, #3 AfD will greatly benefit and further expand as AfD is explicitly anti-renewables alarmism and cronyism. Germany having 3rd highest electricity prices in the world might move to 2nd or 1st if the Greens-SDP agenda will prevail.

CDU
https://www.thegwpf.com/climate-policy-threatens-to-crash-german-coalition-negotiations/

“If coal plants are closed down in Eastern Germany and thousands of workers are made redundant, very soon 30% of voters will support the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD),” Laschet warned. … Prime Minister Laschet announced that he would not make substantial concessions: “If push comes to shove we will have to crash the talks.” He said that environmental policy was a bigger hurdle for the negotiations than immigration policy: “The latter is easier to settle than the closure of power stations.”
(translated to English by The GWPF)
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/deutschland/jamaika-sondierungen-armin-laschet-droht-mit-scheitern-der-gespraeche-a-1174776.html
“Kellner reiterated the Greens’ position that Germany should quickly close coal-fired power stations to help fight climate change, a position resisted by the other parties.” 
October 26, 2017.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-germany-politics/german-coalition-talks-stumble-on-migration-climate-idUSKBN1CV1FZ

“While all parties agreed in principle this week that they want to uphold the Paris climate accord, the FDP is pressing for a commitment to curb government measures to promote renewable energy, which help make German power prices the second-highest in the European Union after Denmark’s.

“We certainly have to reduce carbon dioxide,” the FDP’s Suding said. “In Germany, this is much more expensive than in other countries and we have to find a way to reduce CO2 emissions more cheaply. Of course, there won’t be a complete phase-out of coal by 2030.”

October 27, 2017.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-27/coal-standoff-hinders-merkel-s-push-for-next-german-government

“According to Lindner (FDP):

The project of the century Energiewende [transition to green energies] has failed. None of the agreed targets will be reached. Climate protection is stalled, energy prices are rising and they are burdening us as electricity consumers, just as they are the industry and middle class. And not least of all it is becoming increasingly difficult to guarantee a secure power supply during the winter months.” 
http://notrickszone.com/2017/09/29/germanys-green-energy-project-close-to-death-eeg-feed-in-act-has-failed-has-to-go/#sthash.ZAheNnnr.RsV59Dyz.dpbs

It is good that both CDU/CSU and FDP are jointly resisting the deindustrialization goal of the Greens. One reason why AfD rocketed high to nearly 13% of the votes despite being created only 4 years ago is on the energy mini-suicide of the watermelon groups.

Energy 101, Disinformation and fake stories by the watermelon movement

Fake stories and disinformation can be rampant in the energy sector because of the climate alarmism drama and renewables cronyism agenda. A recent example is one published in BWorld last Thursday, The Philippines’ Ill-Advised P1 Trillion New Coal Gamble, October 20, 2017 By Sara Jane Ahmed.

The lady seems to be ignorant of many data before writing their anti-coal drama. Some things she wrote:

  1. “High electricity prices are driven by imported fuel and subsidies; electricity surcharges…”

à Wrong. Check Meralco website for customer charges, http://www.meralco.com.ph/consumer-information/rates-archive. Here, October 2017 charges, if one consumes up to 300 kWh, he would pay a total of P2,880, one-half of which is for generation charges and the other half for 11 other charges including taxes and FIT subsidy for mostly wind-solar.

meralco bill

From the generation charge, about half of which are from Malampaya natgas-using plants in Batangas; there are hydr0, geothermal, coal could be about 40% of Meralco energy mix.

  1. “Diesel dependence, much like our growing national coal dependence, is a result of subsidies…”

à Wrong, diesel has no subsidy, or maybe she refers to the current zero excise tax for diesel but under Duterte TRAIN, it will soon be slapped with P6/liter excise tax.

  1. “Coal subsidies assure the private sector guaranteed returns…”

à Wrong. Currently coal excise tax is P10/ton but under TRAIN, to rise to P20/ton. Now Dr. Ciel Habito proposes a P600/ton excise and carbon tax for coal. I criticized his proposal here, http://bworldonline.com/carbon-tax-wrong/

  1. “Meralco is currently underwriting a solar power supply deal for 85 megawatts (MW) at P2.99 per kWh.”

à True, and that’s the exception, from Solar Philippines of Leandro Leviste, son of Sen. Loren Legarda. Many solar farms here are given the cronyist FIT or guaranteed price for 20 years of P8.69 to P10+/kWh.

  1. “Philippine’s financial sector as massively exposed now to the eventual stranding proposed new coal fleet to the tune of more than 10,000 MW in overcapacity and P1.05 trillion in financial risk”.

-> See this: “Countries that have coal consumption of at least 2.1x expansion over the past two decades are also those that experienced fast GDP growth of at least 3x expansion. Prominent examples are China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and even Pakistan.” http://bworldonline.com/high-carbon-tax-irrational/

Finally, the lady is highly disoriented, talking about diesel and coal subsidies when there is none. Yet silent on renewables subsidies, haha. P10B in 2015, P18.5B in 2016, P24.4B this 2017, and P26B next year. The main recipients of this renewables cronyism are the wind farms of the Lopezes/EDC, Ayalas’ Caparispisan and Bangui, Phinma, Alternergy/Vince Perez, etc. http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Opinion&title=why-the-fit-all-is-a-burden-to-consumers&id=145326
The “planet saviours”, the renewable cronyism lobbyists, they want more government intervention — in arm-twisting the consumers to pay higher electricity to subsidize renewables; in coercing the grid to prioritize the intermittent, unstable, unreliable, non-dispatchable energy sources; in choking and even killing stable, reliable, dispatchable 24/7 sources like coal, gas and nuke. Watermelons — green outside, red inside.

Cronyism in Renewable energy, gas sectors?

This is my article in BusinessWorld last September 7, 2017.

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Last week, the National Transmission Corp. (TransCo), the administrator of feed in tariff (FiT) — which guarantees high prices for 20 years for variable renewable energy (solar, wind, biomass, run of river hydro) filed a petition at the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). It sought for an increase in FiT-Allowance to be paid by all electricity consumers nationwide.

FiT-All is one of roughly 12 different charges and taxes in our monthly electricity bill and the one with the fastest increases in recent years: four centavos/kWh in 2015, 12.40 centavos in 2016, 18 centavos this 2017, and 29.32 centavos next year. It is a clear example of renewables’ cronyism that penalizes electricity consumers and rewards renewable energy (RE) developers supposedly to help “save the planet.”

Also last week, I attended the Energy Policy Development Program (EPDP) lecture at UP School of Economics, entitled: “Natural gas: Addressing the energy trilemma and powering our energy needs.” The lecture was delivered by Mr. Giles Puno, President and COO of FirstGen, a big Lopez-owned power company. Mr. Puno covered many topics but I will only focus on the lecture’s three aspects.

One, the lecture mentioned that the cost of wind-solar keeps decreasing so efforts to decarbonize the economy is improving, away from coal power which cannot remain cheap in the long-term.

During the open forum, I said that this is not exactly correct because while it is true that the technology cost of wind-solar is declining, the FiT rates given to wind-solar keeps rising actually. FiT rates for wind batch 1 (2015 entrants) were P8.53/kWh in 2015, this went up to P8.90 in 2016, and P9.19 in 2017. Wind batch 2 (2016 entrants) were P7.40/kWh in 2016 and P7.71 in 2017.

Solar batch 1 (2015 entrants) FiT rates were P9.68/kWh in 2015, P9.91 in 2016, and P10.26 in 2017. Solar batch 2 (2016 entrants) FiT rates were P8.69/kWh in 2016 and P8.89 in 2017.

FiT revenues collected by all RE firms given FiT privilege were P10.22B in 2015, a figure that rose to P18.54B in 2016, and P24.44B in 2017.

Two, to address the energy trilemma (energy security, energy equity/affordability, environmental stability), the lecture questioned the 3,500 MW worth of coal supply in the Meralco power supply agreements (PSA). These PSAs were anathema to environmental stability and energy equity since power rate hikes will be expected since coal prices are expected to rise over the long-term. That government should instead prioritize natural gas development.

I mentioned in the open forum that I saw the World Energy Council (WEC) World Energy Trilemma Index 2016 and out of the 125 countries covered, the Philippines was #1 in environmental sustainability, thanks to our big geothermal and hydro, plus recently added variable REs. But Philippines was #92 in energy equity because of our expensive electricity, 3rd highest in Asia next to Japan and Hong Kong.

So it is wrong to demonize coal (nearly 35% of installed capacity but 48% of actual electricity production in 2016) that contributed to declining prices in generation charge in recent years. For instance, the load-weighted average price (LWAP) at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) was declining from about P5.40/kWh in 2012 to only P2.80 in 2016.

Consider also the fact that Philippines’ coal use is small compared to what our neighbors in the region consume. Vietnam consumes twice the amount of what we use, Taiwan three times, Indonesia five times, South Korea and Japan six times — for 2016 alone (see graph).

Energybig_090717

Power companies like FirstGen should focus on ensuring that electricity consumers have cheap and stable electricity available 24/7 without any brownouts, even for a minute. Instead of demonizing and suggesting the stopping of more coal power to come on stream.

Third, Mr. Puno and FirsGen want “government support crucial for LNG development and (1) Holistic and defined energy mix to direct planning and investments, (2) Incentivize LNG through fiscal and non-fiscal policies, (3) Secure LNG Off-take, similar to how Malampaya was underpinned.”

The first two items I consider as cronyist or seeking a crony status from the government. Setting the energy mix should be done by the consumers, not government. The previous Petilla/Monsada plan of 30-30-30-10 energy mix for coal-natural gas-renewable energy-oil respectively is wrong and has no sensible basis. It is good that new DoE Secretary Cusi has dumped it in favor of 70-30-10 energy mix for baseload-mid merit-peaking plants, respectively.

Government taxes should apply to all technology — coal, natgas, hydro, geothermal, etc. — no special privileges of tax breaks and other non-fiscal sweeteners. To ask for tax and non-tax privileges for LNG is asking for crony privileges.

We need less government regulations in setting the energy mix, less government favoritism for expensive wind-solar resulting in more expensive electricity. Government should focus on having energy laws and taxes that apply to all technology and players without any entity enjoying special privileges.