Five myths of solar-wind energy

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


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.


  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.


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:

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.


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.


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.


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)


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%).

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

EPDP lecture on energy planning

power3Last Thursday, I went to UPSE to attend this lecture. Great one, as usual. Dir. Irma Exconde is a friend, a fellow UPSE-PDE alumni, her batch in 2002 was 4 years younger than mine.

Dir. Tamang discussed the process in crafting the PH energy plan (PEP) and the Power development plan (PDP). I told Dir. Irma that with the long process of consultations and meetings to produce a national plan, I really would have no patience working in government.

Then Irma discussed the important aspects of the PEP and PDP, 2015-2030. Among the slides she presented, below. In Luzon grid last year 2015, rated or installed capacity by coal was only 35% of total but actual electricity contribution was 49% of total.

power 2015

In contrast, oil/diesel power plants, installed cap was 16% but actual contribution was only 1%. Why, because they are used only as peaking or peak load plants, they run only for few hours a day on weekdays, on high demand hours and are not used during off-peak hours, or weekends and holidays.

For the new renewables, wind + biomass + solar is 3% of installed cap but actual electricity output only 1% of total.

I mentioned during the open forum that the DOE is subjected to environmental terrorism. If they approve more coal power plants, the DENR and CCC will go to media or in Congress to shift the blame to DOE. Known climate junketers and climate negotiators (Tony la Vina, Yeb Sano, etc.) lambast the DOE and the President why they are commissioning more coal power plants.
I also mentioned the need for more dams and hydro power because we are entering a new era of global cooling (warming-cooling cycle, endless climate cycle), meaning more heavy rains, flooding, etc. for many years and decades to come.

Notice that in this slide, renewables like solar and wind, electricity consumers’ demand, transmission, etc. have their respective plans, but no mention of coal development plan. To mention coal in public discussions seems to be “politically incorrect”…

In the “minor” conflict between DENR+CCC+ environmental militants vs. DOE on the latter’s granting of permits for more coal plants. I am on the side of the DOE. In 2015, 49% of total electricity generation in the Luzon grid came from coal power plants. Without those coal plants, or even slashing half of them, will result in massive, large-scale, daily and nightly blackouts in M.Manila and the rest of Luzon.

The anti-coal planet saviors will hate this scenario of course. They want their 24/7 electricity, they hate even a 1 minute brown out and power interruption so that they can do fb and tweet how ugly coal power is. Double talk and hypocrisy is their regular characteristic. The DOE, by allowing more coal plants, is protecting the public by securing more power supply, to be away as much as possible even from 1-minute brown outs.

As mentioned above, the actual contribution to electricity generation by solar+wind + biomass in the Luzon grid is only 1%. In case of massive, large-scale brown outs because of the anti-coal drama of DENR, CCC, climate militants, those big firms, hotels, manufacturing plants, hospitals, condos, etc. will keep their electricity. How? Lots and lots of gensets, noisy gensets that run on diesel, more dirty than coal power plants.

And the poor or lower middle class who get disconnected by Meralco or other distribution utilities (DUs) or electric cooperatives (ECs), for a few days or weeks they have no electricity, what do they use? Candles. More candles mean more fires, more destruction to private property, more injuries, more deaths.

Expensive, unstable electricity supply means more LGUs and villages have little street lights. Dark streets mean more road accidents, more crimes, more rapes and robbery. The anti-coal campaigners don’t want to recognize this social problem.

Cocktails after the lecture. From left: Rodel Meris, Dir. Tamang, Prof. Ruping Alonzo (UPSE faculty and EPDP Fellow), me, Lawrence Fernandez of Meralco, and Irma.


Room was full. The 1-hour lecture became 2+ hours including Q&A.
Thanks again EPDP, for that fruitful public forum.

EPDP lecture on PH power projections by 2040

epdp1Yesterday afternoon, I attended the Energy Policy and Development Program (EPDP) lecture at the UP School of Economics (UPSE). The 5 co-authors were all there. The powerpoint version of this 34-pages paper was presented by Dr. Majah Ravago. Lecture room was full, audience from different groups, energy companies, NGOs.

Sadly, there was no one from the WWF because during the open forum, I referred to them as “dishonest people” (audience laughed) for claiming that the capacity factor of renewables is 53%. From WESM data, capacity factor of solar in the PH is around 18% only, wind about 14%, biomass about 12%, so where did the WWF get their 53% figure, from the cold air of the Arctic or Antarctica?

(next 2 photos are from EPDP fb page)
The EPDP team however used the WWF data in projecting PH power capacity by 2040. I hope they will discard that WWF paper as a source and make another PH power projection.


Among the slides shown was this chart, that the generation charge in Meralco area is the biggest component of our monthly electricity bill. I pointed out during the open forum that one reason for this is that the cost of generation for natural gas power plants is distorted upwards by government royalty or energy tax, the Malampaya royalty. It is about P1 to P1.50/kWh, the royalty alone, that government collects from the Malampaya consortium (composed of Shell, PNOC, another company) that developed the nat gas field offshore of Palawan, which the consortium passes to the 2 power companies that own and run the 3 nat gas power plants in Batangas, and these companies ultimately pass it to us electricity consumers in the form of higher generation cost.

So this type of energy pricing by the gencos in the PH, that P4.48/kWh from nat gas includes the Malampaya royalty or energy tax (about $1 B a year, makes the government richer, greedier). If there was no royalty, then the consortium and the 3 power plants in Batangas that use the Malampaya nat gas can sell at around P3 to P3.50/kWh including their profit already.

I did not comment anymore on carbon tax as inspired by the UN FCCC global energy racket. There were many hands raised that afternoon from an active audience.

So this is the result of using that lousy and dishonest WWF data on capacity factor of renewables. The projected installed capacity by 2040 under the 30% minimum share of renewables is 48 GW. If the more realistic cap factor of around 16% for renewables is used, then the required installed capacity by 2040 should be 50+ GW.

Nonetheless, this table and projection shows a very important point — that if we use the 30% mandatory renewables share by 2040, we will require some 48 GW of installed power cap (in 2014 it was 16+ GW) and the average generation cost will be P6+/kWh.


Whereas if we discard that 30% mandatory renewables, we will need only 40.5 GW of installed capacity to serve some 130 M Filipinos by 2040. And the cost of generation that consumers will pay will be lower, only about P4.7/kWh.

I like the points made by Alan Ortiz of San Miguel Energy Corp. (SMEC), the biggest genco in the country, followed by Aboitiz Power, First Gen and so on. Especially on the cost of building renewable power plants: about $5M per MW for solar, $4M/MW for wind and hydro, vs. $2M/MW for coal. And solar requires 2 hectares of land to produce 1 MW of power. Me thinks that if actual electricity production is considered and not the installed capacity, it will require about 5-6 hectares of land to produce 1 MW because solar’s average capacity factor is only around 18%. That is, a 100 MW solar farm can actually produce only around 18 MW on average.

After the lecture. All UPSE faculty members and EPDP Fellows, except the left most 🙂 From left: Ruping Alonzo, Raul Fabella, Ernesto Pernia, Majah Ravago, Rolly Danao. Sir Ruping (also my ninong, wedding godfather) and Raul were my former teachers at the school.


Coal and renewables complement each other

* This is my article in BusinessWorld yesterday.

In many literatures on energy and environment, electricity and climate policies, the dominant view is that fossil fuels in general, and coal power in particular, are the “enemies” of sustainable development. This should not be the case. The truth is that coal power plays a complementary and not contradictory role to development. Three sets of data will show why.

One, without coal and natural gas, the Philippines will be as dark at night as North Korea and other underdeveloped countries experiencing daily “Earth hours.”

In Luzon grid, coal + natural gas + oil have produced 86.6% of total power generation in the first half of 2015. The “old renewables” hydro and geothermal contributed 12.5% while the “new renewables” wind, solar and biomass contributed only 1.0%, very small.

In the Visayas grid, coal and geothermal provide the bulk of power generation and in Mindanao, it is hydro, oil, and coal.


Note that the actual power generation of coal + natural gas of 84.4% are much larger than their power capacity of 61.2% of total dependable capacity in the Luzon grid. This means that power plants that use these two fuel types are producing more electricity at stable supply and cheaper prices than other power plants that use oil and geothermal (stable supply but expensive), hydro (low supply during dry months) and new renewables (unstable supply and expensive). Hence, more power are used and purchased from coal and natural gas plants.

Two, in the Meralco franchise area covering Metro Manila and nearby provinces, power plants that run on coal (TLI, MPPC, and SCPC) provide cheaper electricity, although power plants that run on natural gas (SPPC-Ilijan, FGPC-Sta. Rita and FGPC-San Lorenzo) provide the bulk of power generation. Exception is QPPLC that also run on coal but the price is comparable to nat gas power plants.

TMO is a peaking plant, meaning it runs only during peak hours of electricity use. Its price is higher because it uses more expensive fuel, diesel, and runs only for one, two or four hours a day, depending on the season or months of the year. Thus, its contribution to total power production is small, only 0.6% in December 2015.

Three, compared to many developed and emerging Asian economies, coal power consumption in the Philippines is actually small. The expansion of coal consumption in Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam from 2000 to 2014 was nearly twice the expansion in the Philippines.

During the recent Energy Policy and Development Program Conference where Energy Secretary Monsada presented at the final plenary, this writer commented during the open forum that the DoE’s target of 30% minimum share of renewables can be a trap and reduce the country’s flexibility to tap cheaper, more stable energy sources like coal.

Such flexibility is necessary in order to (1) address energy poverty (low kWh/capita electricity consumption), and (2) bring down Philippine electricity prices and leave that unhealthy label of having the “second most expensive electricity in Asia next to Japan.”

The claim therefore by some sectors and observers that coal power is the enemy of sustainable growth of the Philippines is based on subjective and non-objective point of view. Their proposal to either (1) limit coal to base load power only, or (2) outright banning of coal and use only renewables (old and new), is based on emotionalism and alarmism.

When many streets and houses are dark at night because local governments and households are saving on their monthly electricity bills, there are at least three negative social consequences: more vehicular accidents, more criminal activity, and more fires when more people use candles more frequently.

These are crimes against humanity and the poor especially that the “limit/kill coal” movement does not take into serious consideration.

Adding more renewables to the energy mix is good and healthy for the economy so long as no subsidies are provided like feed in tariff (FIT) and no “must/priority dispatch” policy via the renewable portfolio standards (RPS).

The government must avoid politicizing the pricing and dispatch of electricity. Instead, it must encourage the entry of more power plants using different types of fuel, whether local or foreign. More competition among more players is the best way to protect the public via stable supply and cheaper, affordable electricity prices.

Bienvenido Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers, and a Fellow of both the South East Asia Network for Development (SEANET) and the Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi).