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.

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No FIT for geothermal and other renewables, please

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last September 01, 2016

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Expensive electricity via government price guarantee for 20 years is wrong. Business is about risks and returns, capitalism is about corporate expansion and bankruptcy, so there is no such thing as guaranteed price nor assured profit for many years in a competitive economy. Only politics and cronyism will try to negate the nature of competition and business reward and punishment.

Last Aug. 17, 2016, it was reported here in BusinessWorld that Geothermal technologies sought to be included in FiT program.

“The National Geothermal Association of the Philippines (NGAP) is asking the government to include emerging geothermal technologies in the feed-in-tariff (FiT) program to address the cost and risks encountered by developers,” the report said.

This is wrong. Other renewables should also not aspire for FiT system. Granting FiT for intermittent renewables like wind and solar for 20 years was already wrong because it exposed consumers to high and rising electricity prices and the grid to volatile power fluctuations within minutes, among others.

The association was correct in calling that “On the policy front, NGAP calls for expedited regulatory action and permit approvals, as well as assurance of peace and order in some of the more remote prospects.”

Let there be less government interventions and bureaucracies for businesses.

Another reason why granting FiT to geothermal and other renewables is wrong is because energy technologies keep improving and hence, their costs keep falling. So why give an assured, guaranteed high price for technologies that evolve towards falling price through time?

The numbers below on levelized cost of electricity (LCoE) will support the above statement. LCoE is not a perfect measurement of the overall cost per technology but it is a good dimension of the overall competitiveness of different power generation technologies.

Some definitions here.

  1. Dispatchable energy sources are those that can easily adjust to consumer demand. Non-dispatchable technologies are those that are generally dependent on the weather.
  1. Capacity factor means the ratio of actual electricity output over rated or installed capacity.
  1. CC means combined cycle for natural gas plants.
  1. CCS means carbon capture and storage, it is made mandatory by the US government for all new coal plants and it pushes the capex to high levels, making coal power in the US more costly (see table).

o4_090116

So in the US, the no. 1 geothermal electricity producer in the planet, the LCoE of geothermal is falling fast, the lowest among all energy sources at only $42.3/MWh by 2022. The Philippines is no. 2 geothermal producer in the planet, next only to the US. Technologies also follow the law of diffusion of molecules, making expensive technologies become cheaper through time.

On another note, I wrote in my column last Aug. 17, 2016, Brownouts, coal power and the electricity market, “can we expect PEMC to be more independent, more candid, in assessing the harm, actual and potential, of more REs in WESM and grid stability?… no. The DoE cannot contradict itself and say that REs are necessary and that REs are dangerous to the customers’ pockets and the stability of the national grid.”

The Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) through Atty. Phillip C. Adviento replied last Aug. 23, 2016. They said that PEMC “acts only as the Market Operator responsible for the governance and operations of the WESM. The function of maintaining the security, reliability and integrity of the power grid is lodged with the System Operator. Against this context, it is grossly inaccurate to claim that PEMC is expected to study the impact of influx of RE resources in the grid.”

Good point, I recognize that strict distinction between a market operator (of WESM) and system operator (of the national grid). Still, PEMC has the data, it generates that data, of the intermittency per hour and even per minute, of the overall low capacity factor, of the renewables that enter the WESM.

PEMC added that it is “not a government-controlled corporation.”

However, it IS a private but government-controlled corporation. The Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) itself said this at the Senate Committee hearing last Jan. 26, 2016, then chaired by former Senator Serge Osmeña III.

Since the DoE Secretary sits as ex officio Chairman of the PEMC Board, the Secretary determines who among the private players can sit and cannot sit on the board, the Secretary has included government-owned energy corporations on the board even if they have minimal or zero contribution to electricity supply at WESM (NPC and PSALM), also TransCo. That makes PEMC a government-controlled corporation.

Government needs to step back from its intervention in the sector. It should reduce the number of permits that firms need to secure so that they can put up new power plants quickly. The government should also cut or abolish the system of guaranteed price for decades for favored renewables, reduce the taxes and fees imposed on energy companies, and the electricity costs paid by the customers.

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

The UPSE-Ayala forum on the PH power sector

* Originally posted on July 25, 2015.

Last July 23, I attended this forum held at the Ayala Museum, Makati. Main speaker was Atty. Raphael Perpetuo “Popo” M. Lotilla, former DOE Secretary and Chairman, Center for the Advancement of Trade Integration and Facilitation (CATIF). Discussants and reactors were (1) Mr. Vicente S. Perez, Jr., former DOE Secretary, President of ALTERNERGY and Chairman of WWF-Philippines, (2) Mr. John Eric T. Francia, President & CEO of Ayala Corp. (AC) Energy Holdings, Inc., and (3) Dr. Peter Lee U,Dean, School of Economics, University of Asia and the Pacific (UAP).

This photo from the UPSE website; from left: Perez, Lotilla, Francia, Lee U.

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Popo talked about the various provisions of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) law of 2001, in particular the Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA), the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), etc.

It was a full-packed room, as usual. Many participants are from the energy sector, public and private. Mr. Jaime Zobel de Ayala (JAZA) was there, also ERC Chairman Atty. Juan, people from San Miguel Power, Aboitiz Power, Meralco, etc. Many faculty members of UPSE were there too. And former PM Cesar Virata,

During the open forum, I spoke, I said that I agree with the speakers that EPIRA does not need amendment or abolition. It’s the renewables cronyism law, Renewable Energy (RE) Act of 2008 that needs amendment or abolition.

Vince Perez and  others in the audience I think raised their eyebrows and wondered, so I repeated it’s renewables cronyism. In particular, the feed in tariff (FIT) and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) provisions. FIT is guaranteed minimum price for 20 years. In classic and orig capitalism, there is no such thing as “guaranteed” price and profit. Prices rise and fall due to dynamics in supply and demand. If there are lots of power plants running at the same time relative to power demand, the price shd go down. By how much, well down to P0.50/kWh perhaps during midnight or long holidays.

RPS is mandatory use by the national grid through NGCP. Thus, if good wind comes in at midnight, wind power produce more power at P8+/kWh (FIT priice) but coal can also provide power at P0.50 or P1/kWh that same time, NGCP is arm-twisted, coerced by the law to take the more expensive wind power and reject cheaper power from coal on that hour/s.

That is hypocrisy. We should have cheap electricity because we already have the 2nd or 3rd most expensive electricity in Asia. Yet RE law mandates more expensive electricity on top of already high prices.

Then I specifically asked Vince about my opinion  that he has conflict of interest in the sector. He is the Chairman of WWF-PH that explicitly lobbied for FIT/expensive electricity implementation, and his companies benefit from those FIT and RPS. RE law was enacted in December 2008 but FIT was implemented only by mid-2012 because many sectors and energy consumers opposed even more expensive electricity.

Two more questions from the floor, one about nuke power. Then Popo replied to the two questions. Vince replied to  my question that he has no conflict of interest because RE law was enacted when he was no longer the DOE Secretary.

I did not make a follow up question because there were many other hands raised to ask questions or make comments. Vince simply did not answer my question and my point above I think, remains valid.
Meanwhile, the reasons why I agree with the speakers that EPIRA does not need not amendment now, or even abolition, among others:

  1. It allowed privatization of losing, low capacity National Power Corp. (NPC) power plants, especially hydro.
  1. This drastically reduced NPC losses and public debt, before something like P100B or P150B a year, NPC has near-zero capacity to pay those ever-rising debt, it can only add and exacerbate it. Who will pay those huge NPC debts? You, me and our children through taxes and more taxes.
  1. It allowed more players, more competition in the power generation sector. Before, there was only NPC, Lopezes and some Aboitiz power. Now there are San Miguel, Trans Asia, KEPCO, SN Power, GN Power, AES, AC, Salcon, GBPC, and about dozen-plus others, aside from the Lopez and Aboitiz companies.
  2. It allowed retail competition and open access (RCOA). If you have a 1 MW power plant, say a small hydro in Montalban or Marikina, and some villages in Marikina or UP-Ateneo area want to buy your power output, you can bypass Meralco, bypass NGCP, etc. You pay fewer fees (no transmission fee, no distribution fee, no universal charges too, I think).
  1. Compare Mindanao hydro, ALL are still under the government/NPC, and they have frequent “Earth Hours” there. In Luzon, almost all hydro plants were privatized, government made money from privatization proceeds which helped reduce the public debt, while improving the capacity factor of those plants. Ex. Magat hydro in Isabela, 360 MW. Under NPC, it would be VERY lucky if it can produce 300 or even 250 MW. When Magat was bought by a Norwegian power company in partnership with Aboitiz power, its capacity went up to 100%, full 360 MW. The Norwegians are perhaps #1 in the planet when it comes to hydro power tech. Later, Magat’s capacity even improved to 380 MW.

Private power plants, if they run too low against their capacity, will be losing money, something they cannot afford. On the other hand, losing power plants under NPC was not so much a concern of NPC officials and employees, they were assured of funding (their salaries, travels, trainings, etc.) from the budget, yearly.

After the forum, meals. From left: Prof. Ruperto “Ruping” Alonzo, retired UPSE faculty and former NEDA Dep. Dir. General, me, Popo Lotilla (a former dormmate at Narra dorm, UP Diliman in the 80s), Simplicio Endaya, a fellow UPSE alumni, and Dr. Epictetus “Lingling” Patalinghug, Prof. at UP Coll. of Business Administration, trustee of ADR Institute.

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Ninong Ruping and Lingling are my former professors in UP, and among my wedding sponsors. 🙂

I also talked briefly to Eric Francia. I think I told him that the Ayala Corp. (AC) should not ask for energy subsidies. He replied that they have a diversified energy sources of power generation.

The main reason why AC should NOT ask for subsidies (Eric, Romy B., feel free to  forward this to Mr. JAZA :-)) is that AC is a net energy consumer, not energy producer. Its core business is real estate, those expensive and glittering malls, residential and office condo, sprawling expensive subdivisions, etc. Thus, it should lobby for cheaper electricity, not expensive power. When it develops renewables like wind and power and get subsidies, it is contributing to more expensive electricity. The Ayalas (unlike the other big Spanish families and hacienderos) were able to build their huge business empire because of innovation, not because of political cronyism. So why would it ask for renewables cronyism and favoritism now?

They can develop renewables like putting up solar roof on their malls like what SM North Edsa has done, mainly to augment their power needs, or part of their CSR publicity, WITHOUT asking for subsidies. I heard that they lobbied for retroactive FIT for an old wind farm they bought but was built before RE law (RA 9513) was enacted in 2008. Will check how true is this story.

Ok, that “subsidize renewables to save the planet” and “man-made” warming/climate change drama. Here’s the chart again of planet Earth’s long-term climate history.

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The campaigners and lobbyists of “more expensive electricity to save the planet” are of course dishonest. The UN, Al Gore, WWF, Greenpeace, Oxfam, etc. They make huge money by fooling the public, and they get more donations from the public, more tax money from governments.

It is simply wrong and dishonest to say that:

1. There is only “man-made” warming/CC, no or little “nature-made” warming/CC;
2. There is only global warming, no global cooling that can happen after GW;
3. There is only “unprecedented” warming, no Medieval warm period (MWP), Roman warm period (RWP), other warm periods in the past while there was not a single SUV or coal power plant;
4. Less rain or more rain, less flood or  more flood, less storms or more storms, less snow or more snow, less dogs and more dogs, they are all proof of “man-made” CC.

So ALL those alibi and drama for expensive electricity via subsidies to wind and solar “to save the planet” have no justification.

FEF on FIT for solar power

On June 13, 2014, the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) in Manila issued a good statement and warning about guaranteed rates for solar energy producers. The average generation charge by various power generation companies (from coal, natural gas, geothermal, hydro, oil-based, some renewables) collected by Meralco is about P5.70/kWh (+/- 10 to 20 centavos). The solar producers are given guaranteed rate of P9.68/kWh, or about P4 more expensive than existing rates. We already have a high electricity cost in Asia, the FIT for solar, wind and other renewables will make it even more expensive.

Solar power, wind, biomass are cool, I am not against them per se. I am against the subsidy via FIT that is granted to producers of those renewables. That Renewable Energy Act of 2008 (RA 9513) is a huge energy cronyism engineered or inspired by various climate alarmist groups like the UN, WWF and Greenpeace, that will victimize Philippine-based energy consumers.
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PRESS RELEASE

Foundation for Economic Freedom Opposes the Increase in Solar Installation Capacity Under the Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Subsidy

1       We, the Foundation for Economic Freedom, firmly oppose the plan of the Department of Energy (DOE) to increase the installation target for solar energy from 50 Megawatts to 500 Megawatts (MW) under the Feed-in-Tariff Subsidy of PHP 9.80 per KWh on the pretext that the country has to build energy reserves in the summer months of 2015 and 2016.

We believe the DOE’s decision is illogical, arbitrary, and represents an unjust burden on Filipino electricity consumers.  It is illogical because while the perceived “emergency” is only during the summer months of 2015 and 2016, the decision will burden Filipino electricity consumers with additional power charges amounting to PHP 12 billion annually for the next 20 years, or a grand total of PHP 240 Billion pesos.  This gigantic burden is on top of the already approved subsidy for the existing installation targets for renewable energy that is conservatively estimated at PHP 8 billion pesos annually for the next 20 years.

Solar energy developers will enjoy a Feed-in-Tariff (“FIT”) rate of PHP 9.68/kWh for the 500 MW when the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) rate is at least half of that.  The difference between the WESM rate and the FIT rate will be shouldered by the Filipino consumers.

We estimate that the total additional bill for Filipino consumers to be at least PHP 0.32/kW hour if the additional subsidies for the expanded solar installation capacity is taken into account.

Under the existing rules of the Feed-in-Tariff system, the renewable energy developers, including the solar energy producers, will enjoy a guaranteed rate of return of 16% per annum for the next 20 years.  The FIT rates are fixed for 20 years, irrespective of advances in technology and reductions in cost of capital equipment.

These developers will enjoy a greater amount of abnormal profits because the FIT rates calculated by the Energy Regulatory Commission two years ago may be too high given the drops in interest rates and the cost of capital equipment.

The burden on Filipino consumers goes beyond the Feed-in-Tariff subsidy to Renewable Energy developers.  Solar is an intermittent power source:  it doesn’t generate power at night or when the sun is covered by clouds.  It has an efficiency rating of only 16 to 20%, which means that most of the time the equipment lies idle.  Because of its intermittent nature, the grid has to build additional reserves.  These additional energy reserves are added costs that will be passed on to the consumers.

The additional electricity costs will further lessen the competitiveness of Filipino manufacturers and cause job losses.

It is absurd that manufacturers and consumers have to bear  this additional onerous burden for the next 20 years to address a perceived problem that will last for a mere two months in 2015 and 2016 considering alternative solutions are possible and less expensive.  The plan of the Department of Energy will only fatten the profits of solar energy developers and their foreign equipment suppliers at the expense of Filipino consumers who must bear the additional unjust burden, which is effectively a tax, for the next 20 years.

We, the Foundation for Economic Freedom, are not against renewable energy per se, but against the obscene prices that must be borne by the Filipino consumers due to the exorbitant Feed-in-Tariff rates and duration (20 years) given to renewable energy developers.