Why a carbon tax is wrong

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last week.

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Coal power produced nearly 48% of Philippines’ actual electricity generation in 2016 despite having only 34.6% share in the country’s installed power capacity of 21,400 MW or 21.4 GW, Department of Energy (DoE) figures show.

Renewables (hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, biomass) produced 24.2% of total power generation in 2016 despite having 32.5% of installed power capacity. In particular, wind + solar combined contributed a small 2.3% of total power generation.

At a forum organized by the Energy Policy Development Program (EPDP) at the UP School of Economics last Oct. 5, the speaker Dr. Francisco Viray, former DoE secretary and now president and CEO of PhinMa Energy Corp., showed in his presentation a screen shot of Dr. Ciel Habito’s article, “Let’s get the carbon tax right.” Ciel was arguing among others, that the carbon tax for coal power should be raised from the current P10/ton to P600/ton and not P20/ton as contained in Senate bill No. 1592 of Sen. Angara.

I commented during the open forum that Ciel’s article in reality has a wrong title, it should have been “A carbon tax is wrong.” And here are the reasons why.

One, as mentioned above, coal power was responsible for nearly 48% of total electricity generation nationwide in 2016 and it is wrong to restrict its supply and/or make its price become more expensive. Kill coal or even drastic cut in coal power would mean massive, large-scale, and nationwide blackouts for several hours a day, something that consumers wouldn’t want to endure. After all, even a one minute brownout can already cause widespread disappointment.

Two, the Philippines’ overall coal consumption – in absolute amount and in per capita level – is small compared to the consumption of its neighbors in Asia (see table).

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The Philippines has only 100 kilos or 0.1 ton per head per year of coal, the smallest in the region. There is no basis to suggest restricting further coal use given the fast demand for electricity nationwide.

Three, it is wrong to advocate more expensive electricity via high carbon tax given that subsidies to renewables via feed-in-tariff (FiT), among others, are already adding upward price pressure. A higher carbon tax may be more acceptable to the consumers if the FiT scheme is discontinued and ultimately abolished. If this is not done, better to keep coal excise tax as low as possible.

The proposed P600/ton excise tax on coal power would translate to P0.24/kWh hike in power generation charge. Using Ciel’s numbers, one ton of coal can generate 2,519 kWh electricity on average. So P600/2,519 kWh = P0.24/kWh. That is equivalent to FiT-Allowance that each electricity consumer from Luzon to Mindanao must pay monthly for many years to come.

Four, it is wrong to demonize and over-regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) as a pollutant because it is not. CO2 is invisible, colorless, and odorless unlike those dark smoke coming from vehicles and chimneys of old manufacturing plants.

CO2 is the gas that humans and animals exhale, the gas that flowers, trees, rice and other crops use to produce their own food via photosynthesis. More CO2 means more plant growth, faster greening of the planet. CO2 therefore is a useful gas, not a pollutant gas that the UN, Al Gore, and other groups and individuals would portray it.

While the hike in coal excise tax from P10 to P20/ton as contained in the Senate version is somehow acceptable, there is danger that the P600/ton proposal will spring out of nowhere during the bicameral meeting of the House and Senate leaders. This should not be allowed to happen.

Continued demonization of coal and rising favoritism of variable renewables like wind-solar would mean more expensive electricity, more unstable grid, and darker streets at night. Dark streets would mean more road accidents, more robbery, more abduction and rapes, more murders as criminals benefit from anonymity provided by darkness.

Energy irrationality can kill more people today, not 40 or 100 years from now. The irrationality and insensitivity of rising government taxes should be restricted and limited.

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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).

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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.

The quest for more stable and cheaper electricity in the ASEAN

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last April 28, 2017.

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High economic growth means high energy demand coming from stable supply and competitively priced energy, not unstable, intermittent, and expensive energy. This is what the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economies need as their high GDP growth of 4.7% in 2016 is projected to improve to 4.8% this year and 5% in 2018 (ADB data), much faster than the projected growth of other regions and economic blocs.

One week before the ASEAN 50th Summit Meeting, the 7th Annual Meeting of the Nuclear Energy Cooperation Sub-Sector Network (NEC-SSN) hosted by the Department of Energy (DoE) was held. A pre-feasibility study showed that many ASEAN countries are in favor of using nuclear energy for commercial use. The ASEAN Center for Energy (ACE) also sees nuclear energy as a long-term power source for the member-countries.

The intensive infrastructure projects of the Duterte administration require huge amount of energy. The proposed 25-km. subway in Metro Manila by the Japan government alone would require high energy supply for the dozens of trains running simultaneously below the ground plus dozens of train stations below and above ground.

Lots of base-load power plants, those that can run 24-7 all year round except when they are on scheduled shut down for maintenance, will be needed. These baseload plants include coal, natural gas, geothermal, and nuclear. Hydro plants too but only during the rainy season.

How reliable and how costly are the different power generation plants that the Philippines and other ASEAN countries will need? This table will help provide the answer as I have not seen data for the ASEAN yet.

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Power reliability is represented by plant capacity factor or actual power output relative to its installed capacity. So unstable, intermittent sources like wind and solar have low capacity factor, not good for manufacturing plants, hotels, hospitals, malls, shops, and houses that require steady electricity supply.

Power cost is represented by the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), composed of capital expenditures (capex), fixed and regular operation and maintenance (O&M), variable O&M, and transmission investment. CCS means carbon capture and sequestration.

The cost of ancillary services for intermittent sources, the standby power plants if the wind does not blow or if it rains make solar plants temporarily inutile, does not seem to be reflected in the transmission cost though.

ASEAN countries like the Philippines will need those power plants that have (a) high reliability, high capacity factor, (b) low LCOE, and (c) low or zero need for ancillary services.

However, more ASEAN countries are entertaining more solar PV and wind onshore since they were convinced to believe that they need unstable yet expensive electricity to “save the planet.”

During the Energy Policy Development Program (EPDP) lecture last April 20 at the UP School of Economics (UPSE), Ms. Melinda L. Ocampo, president of the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) talked about “Electricity Trading and Pricing in the Philippine WESM.” Ms. Ocampo discussed among others, the new management system where the interval for electricity dispatch has been improved from one hour to only five minutes.

I pointed during the open forum that the imposition of the lousy scheme feed-in-tariff (FiT) or more expensive electricity for favored renewables was unleashed even to consumers in Mindanao, which is not part of WESM, and is not connected to the Luzon-Visayas grids. The FiT-Allowance that is reflected in our monthly electricity bill has risen from 4 centavos/kWh in 2015 to 12.40 centavos in 2016 and this year, we should brace for at least 26 centavos/kWh soon because the 23 centavos petition by Transco starting January 2017 has not been acted by the Energy Regulatory Commission yet.

The issue of stable and affordable energy will be tackled in the forthcoming BusinessWorld Economic Forum this May 19, 2017 at Shangri-La BGC. Session 4 “Fuelling Future Growth”of the conference will have the following speakers: John Eric T. Francia, president & CEO of Ayala Corp. (AC) Energy Holdings, Inc.; Antonio R. Moraza, president & COO of Aboitiz Power Corporation; Josephine Gotianun Yap, president of Filinvest Development Corp., and DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi. Yap and Cusi are still to confirm the invite.

Local energy players will have a big role in ensuring that the Philippines should have stable and competitively priced energy supply today and tomorrow.

Five myths of solar-wind energy

* This is my article in BusinessWorld on March 20, 2017

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Variable renewable energy (RE) like wind and solar are far out from giving humanity sufficient, stable, and cheap electricity to sustain growth and fight poverty. For the simple reasons that they are very intermittent and expensive. Below are five of the common myths that we hear and read about wind and solar.

  1. Solar, wind, biomass, and other REs will replace fossil fuels as major global energy sources in the near future.

Wrong. From the projections by the two of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies, these REs, which may also include geothermal, will produce only 8.5% of global energy demand (Exxon Mobil data) or 6% (British Petroleum data) by 2025.

  1. The share of coal, gas, and nuclear will further decline as the world moves towards implementing the Paris Agreement of 2015.

Wrong. From both EM and BP projections, there is no let up in global use and demand for fossil fuel and nuclear sources in the near future. This is for the simple reason that people anywhere dislike power interruption even for one minute, much more frequent and involuntary outages lasting many hours, daily or weekly.

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  1. Solar and wind are cheaper than coal now, their overall costs will keep falling.

Wrong. The feed-in-tariff (FiT) rates or guaranteed price for 20 years for solar-wind keep rising, not declining. For first group of solar entrants, their FiT rates in Pesos/kWh were 9.68 in 2015, 9.91 in 2016, and 10.26 in 2017. For second group of solar entrants, their FiT rates were 8.69 in 2016 and 8.89 in 2017.

For wind power first group of entrants, their FiT rates in Pesos/kWh were 8.53 in 2015, 8.90, in 2016 and 9.19 in 2017. For second group of wind entrants, their FiT rates were 7.40 in 2016 and 7.72 in 2017. Only the sun and wind are free but the panels, switchyards, cables, wind turbines, towers, access roads, etc. are not.

Current power prices in Mindanao are only around P2.80/kwh as many new huge coal plants compete with each other along with hydro and geothermal plants. No additional charges.

  1. Solar and wind have no social cost (SC) while the SC of coal is very high.

Wrong. Solar and wind are very land-intensive and, as a result, more areas for food, commercial, and forest production are diverted to accommodate more solar and wind farms. To have 1 MW of installed solar power, one will need about 1.5 hectare of land. So to have a 300 MW solar plant, one will need about 450 hectares of land; San Miguel power has a 300-MW coal plant in Mindanao sitting on only 30 hectares of land, or hectare/MW ratio of only 0.1 for coal vs. 1.5 for solar.

Since solar has a low capacity factor, only 18% of its installed capacity — from 450 hectares of land with installed power of 300 MW — can actually produce only around 54 MW.

Majestic solar, 66.3 MW in CEZA, Rosario, Cavite is not included here because it is a rooftop facility and hence, does not occupy extra land area.

  1. Carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution and emission from coal power plants will further warm the planet.

Wrong. CO2 is not a pollutant or evil gas. It is a useful gas, the gas that we humans and our animals exhale, the gas that our rice, corn, flowers, trees and other plants use to produce their own food via photosynthesis. More CO2 means more plant growth, more food production, more trees regenerating naturally, which have cooling effect on land surface.

The above five myths were among the topics discussed during the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) “Roundtable on Philippine Energy Security and Competitiveness” last Friday, March 17 at UPSE in Diliman, Quezon City. The main speaker was Dr. Majah Ravago of UPSE and EPDP and she presented the main EPDP paper, Filipino 2040 Energy. The five reactors included Jose “Viking” Logarta of the ICSC and Dr. Christoph Menke of Trier University of Applied Sciences in Germany. Dr. Menke discussed the GIZ paper criticizing the EPDP paper.

201703201e1b5Governments should not create regulations that distort the energy market away from real competition. Insisting on dishonest claims like “carbon pollution” and “renewables to save the planet” only lead to more expensive and unstable energy supply, wasteful use of land and other natural resources.

Energy bureaucracy, electric cooperatives and NEA

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last March 08, 2017.

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The Philippines experienced a seemingly energy revival in 2016 and 2017 with plenty of new power plants commissioned and running. Mindanao experienced an energy surplus after many years of frequent involuntary “Earth hours” or almost daily blackouts lasting for many hours.

So it is ironic that while new power capacity were added into the grid, Luzon including Metro Manila, still incurred occasional “yellow alerts” in power supply. This indicated near-brownout situations that took place a few weeks ago since several power plants went offline all of a sudden, coinciding with maintenance and repair shutdowns that were scheduled ahead of time.

Some groups blame “collusion” of some generating companies (Gencos) to stage an artificial power deficiency and thus, command higher prices for several hours on those “yellow alert” situations. However, they offer little proof and numbers to back up this claim.

o4_030817For me, the more plausible and visible cause is the undeclared “collusion” of various groups including many government agencies and environmentalist groups to delay if not stop the installation of more power capacities to have huge reserves that can (a) cover even huge unscheduled power shutdowns and (b) bring down electricity prices further as a result of intense competition. See table below as proof.

With only 700+ kWh/person/year in 2014, that puts the Philippines slightly higher than the electricity use of poor neighbors Cambodia and Myanmar, and only half the electricity consumption of Vietnam, 1/4 that of Thailand, 1/7 that of Malaysia and 1/13 that of Singapore.

Last Friday, March 3, I attended the forum on “Institutionalizing Energy Projects as Projects of National Significance” by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committees on Energy and Economic Affairs, sponsored by the Energy Policy Development Program (EPDP) held at the UP School of Economics (UPSE) Auditorium.

The three reactors were Dr. Ronald Mendoza, Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, Dr. Alan Ortiz, President and COO of SMC Global Power Holdings Corp., and DoE (Department of Energy) Undersecretary Jesus Posadas.

The senator recognized the problem of low power capacity of the Philippines in general, and some big islands in particular. There are many big committed and indicative power plants lining up but they often encounter bureaucratic delays.

20170307a5df3A paper, “An analysis of time to regulatory permit approval in Philippine electricity generation” (2016) by Laarni Escresa of EPDP showed that on the average, power plant operators need to secure 162 clearances (MBC, 2014) and 102 permits.

So the Senator’s bill will prioritize these big power plants (P3.5B or higher in capitalization) for faster approval process. For instance, agencies are given 30 days to check the documents submitted; if they fail to act on time, it is deemed that the papers are approved and permits be automatically granted.

Alan Ortiz mentioned something that’s somehow a shocking figure: Boracay’s electricity needs rose from 8 MW just 10 years ago to 100 MW today. From 8 to 100 MW in just 10 years — that’s a lot.

Undersecretary Posadas gave a good assurance that the DoE is “agnostic” on the source of energy (renewable or not) and want to see more power plants coming in. He also said that the DoE will no longer issue a 3rd round of feed-in-tariff (FiT) for wind-solar. Good announcement.

Another factor that contributes to uncertainties in power generation are those inefficient and losing electric cooperatives (ECs). They just get power from the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) and distribute to their customers and do not pay the many Gencos that happened to supply their electricity needs.

From the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), here are the top three market participants or players which have unpaid energy settlement Amounts at WESM as of Feb. 27, 2017:

(1) Albay Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ALECO) P98.59M, (2) Abra Electric Cooperative (ABRECO) P63.97M, and (3) AP Renewables, Inc. P14.38M (source: http://bit.ly/unpaidwesm).

The numbers above exclude the unpaid amount of ALECO in their Special Payment Agreement with PEMC amounting to nearly P1B.

The National Electrification Administration (NEA) does not seem to properly discipline certain ECs under its belt. To have an old debt of nearly P1B and new debt of nearly P100M from one EC alone (Aleco) should be a red flag indicator that this type of prolonged and sustained inefficiency and losses have been tolerated.

The NEA should step back from this and other problematic ECs and force them to corporatize and be subjected to bankruptcy laws under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The Philippines and its electricity consumers need stable and cheap electricity. They do not need the burden of being dependent on ECs that lose money and are unable to pay generation companies that further add uncertainties to bureaucratic delays.

Bienvenido Oplas, Jr. is the president of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET and Stratbase-ADRi.

The PEMC-NGCP Electricity Summit 2016, low ESSPs last October, high FIT-All next year

The annual Electricity Summit jointly organized by the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) will be held next week in Davao City, the home of President Duterte. PEMC is the market operator, the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) while NGCP is the system operator.

I attended theElectricity Summit 2015 held at the Crowne Plaza in Ortigas. Compared to most conferences that I attend, it was an odd or weird one. The organizers and speakers are the energy regulators (DOE, ERC), market operator and system operator, and the audience are the regulated market players. So during the open forum, I think the audience were  hesitant to ask critical questions and comments to the guys who regulate them and operate the system for them. I think I stood 2 or 3 times to ask questions because the huge conference hall has a generally friendly atmosphere to the organizers.

The program this year is a bit different mainly because (1) EPDP is involved, an independent institute, (2) there are speakers from the WB and ADB, and (3) the President is a keynote speaker. Last year, among the key speakers were from (1) the ASEAN Power Grid, (2) the International Energy Agency (IEA), and (3) Mr. MacDonald, the Australian consultant who justified the PEMC structure of many government representatives in the board and still call it an “independent” agency. Provisional program of Summit 2016 as of November 17.

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I have heard the presentations by Majah, Laarni and Geoffrey at the recent PH Economic Society (PES) conference last November 8. The WB and ADB guys will likely be talking about “more renewables please to save the planet” and indirectly say “we offer pretty climate and energy loans to save the planet.” 🙂

What will be new there will be the proposed electricity market and transmission connection for Mindanao. Will the session also tackle the privatization of huge hydro power plants in Mindanao, the Agus-Pulangi plants, others? I doubt it. These plants are still under another government corporation, the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM).

Registration is P15,000 per head, not cheap. People from Metro Manila, Visayas must also fly to Davao and get a hotel room for a night or two.

Meanwhile, PEMC sent me their latest press release with a good news: the Effective Settlement Spot Prices (ESSPs) in WESM further fell from PhP2.86/kWH in September to PhP2.48/kWH in October 2016 billing period. Good news, indeed. ESSPs are average prices paid by wholesale customers for energy purchased from WESM. Meralco has been getting more of their power supply from WESM over the past two or three months, something like 15-20% of their power supply. Mura eh, good decision.

Supply – demand dynamics. Higher supply, more competition among gencos, lower prices. Limited supply while demand remains high, higher prices.

This is the power generation mix for October 2016 in the Luzon-Visayas grids, PEMC data. Will the planet saviours who keep insisting on “more wind-solar please to save the planet” be happy with frequent, long hours of blackouts daily, more candles and noisy gensets 365 days a year? Solar + wind can only supply 2.3% of the total electricity need in Luzon-Visayas grids including Metro Manila.

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Meanwhile, PEMC will not report that there is a bad news to low ESSPs — that the FIT-All (feed in tariff allowance) will naturally rise big time next year.

FIT-All = (Total FIT collections by the renewables firms) – (collections from WESM)

So, since the collections from WESM are low because of low ESSPs while the total FIT collections will be high as more solar-wind are added to the grid with their expensive guaranteed price (for 20 years, mind you), FIT-All will naturally rise. From 4 centavos/kWh in 2015 to 12.40 centavos/kWh this year, to about 20 centavos/kWh in 2017?

If we combine these: (a) FIT under-recoveries in 2015 because of the low FIT-All of 4 centavos + (b) FIT under-recoveries in 2016 because of low ESSPs and insufficient 12.40 centavos + (c) more expensive solar-wind power added to the grid, the resulting FIT-All by 2017 will be high.

The FIT administrator is another government firm that owns the country’s grid system and assets, the National Transmission Corporation (Transco). I do not know yet how much Transco has petitioned the ERC for the FIT-All next year.

Again, my bottomline: government interventions in setting the energy mix, in setting fixed and guaranteed pricing for the variable renewables (solar, wind, biomass, run-of-river or small hydro), in granting mandatory dispatch for these renewables, are all wrong. They can lead to more expensive electricity, more unstable supply and “brownouts-friendly” electricity

Who should set the energy mix, government or consumers?

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last November 02, 2016.

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This question seems to have a “default” answer: the government and it is time to revisit the premise of government being the central planning body that sets the Philippines’ energy mix.

The Energy Policy Development Program (EPDP) composed of mostly UP School of Economics (UPSE) faculty members as fellows and researchers produced their most recent paper, “Filipino 2040 Energy: Power Security and Competitiveness.” The 52-page long paper projects two scenarios for the Philippines until 2040, the strong/fast growth and slow/mediocre growth, and the projected energy demand and prices based on four policy options. Here are the projected cost of electricity by 2040 based on current technology and two Sensitivity Analysis (SA) that project the cost of variable renewable energy (VRE) on two scenarios. (see Table 1)

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The numbers for policy #4 under the three scenarios above do not account yet for these two costs: (a) intermittency cost of VREs (possibility of frequent brownouts) and (b) grid integration cost of VREs (will require additional investment by NGCP). The EPDP paper noted these two costs:

“For example, a 16 GW wind turbine in Scotland requires a grid investment of £4 billion… In Britain, a 34% share of renewables in their generation and transmission imposes a likely cost of £6.8 billion a year, or an extra 38% increase.”

This EPDP paper was presented by lead author, Dr. Majah Ravago during the Stratbase-Albert del Rosario (ADRi) and Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) forum on “Affordable Electricity: a Requisite for Competitiveness” held at Oakwood in Mandaluyong City last Oct. 26.

As one of the two reactors during the event, I expressed my disagreement with some of the numbers presented, as indicated on the table.

Even under current technology, the price gap between policy #2 (the current energy mix) and policy #4 (being pushed under RA 9513 or Renewable Energy Act of 2008) by 2040 will be small.

In Germany’s experience of feed in tariff (FiT) for instance, the price and subsidies did not flatten or decrease, they only kept rising, endlessly. From €0.20 cents/kWh in 2000 to €0.42 by 2003, €0.88 by 2006, €1.31 by 2009, €3.53 by 2011, €5.28 by 2013, €6.24 by 2014, €6.35 this year and projected to further rise to €7.1 by 2017. A whooping 35.5x increase after 17 years.

I also mentioned the case of massive, state-wide blackout in South Australia last Sept. 28.

Some areas lost power for five hours, others ten while others for one week or more.

While Australia is 69% dependent on coal, especially the state of Victoria, the state of South Australia is heavily dependent on wind power. When the wind does not blow, wind turbines’ output is zero. When the wind blows too much like the big storm that day, many wind operators shut down and lock their wind turbines to prevent damage, and wind output was also zero, triggering a series of power trips that resulted in state-wide blackouts.

Below are actual electricity production and not just installed electric power capacity for selected economies in Asia Pacific in 2012.

The ADB’s Key Indicators 2016 report has yet to be released as of this writing. Note the wide disparity in energy mix in favor of coal for many of them (see Table 2). Those that are more dependent on natural gas are Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore (84.3%).

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Note that all those countries that are more coal dependent than the Philippines have lower electricity prices than us except Australia because of the latter’s high grid or transmission charges, more than twice that of the Philippines.

Thus, if more coal reliance would result in cheaper, more stable, electricity supplies, why should the Philippine government — through the Department of Energy (DoE), Energy Regulatory Commission, and even Congress — impose regulations that will force us to have less coal power and instead, have more intermittent, unstable, expensive renewables?

So, who should set the optimal and consumers-oriented energy mix, the state or the public? The government or the consumers?

The obvious answer is the consumers; residential, commercial, agricultural, industrial consumers. They are the ones who will ultimately pay the monthly electricity bill, the ones who will suffer if brownouts become frequent.

Policy option #2 of EPDP should be pursued by the government. The DoE and Congress should step back and respect the consumers’ right to cheaper and stable electricity