Rising feed in tariff (FIT) due to more wind-solar power

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last January 24, 2017.

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Cheaper electricity and stable energy supply are among the important components to have fast and sustainable economic growth.

On Jan. 17, the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) sent a press release saying that “effective settlement spot prices (ESSPs) in the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) plunged to P2.28/kWH for the December 2016 billing period which is the lowest since January 2011. ESSPs refer to the average prices paid by wholesale customers for energy purchased from the spot market.” That is good news as various players using fossil fuel sources like coal, natural gas, and oil, are fiercely competing with each other in generating electricity. WESM was created by EPIRA of 2001.

On the same day, the Department of Energy (DoE) posted a “Request for comments on the draft Department Circular entitled ‘Declaring the launch of WESM in Mindanao’ (on Jan. 26, 2016) and providing for transition arrangements.” Another good news because finally, there will be a formal spot market for power producers and electric cooperatives that will guide a competitive and deregulated market, benefitting the consumers.

Last Dec. 23, 2016, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) posted a request for public comments until Dec. 30 regarding the petition of three wind developers — Trans-Asia Renewable Energy Corporation (TAREC), Alternergy Wind One Corporation (AWOC), and Petrowind Energy, Inc. (PWEI) — that their feed in tariff (FiT) or guaranteed price for 20 years of P7.40/kWh be raised to P7.93/kWh, citing various cost escalations. That was bad news because expensive electricity is never a virtue. I sent a letter to ERC Commissioner Salazar arguing that they say No to the petition.

And last Dec. 6, 2016, the ERC published in a newspaper a National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) petition asking for a FiT allowance (FiT-All) of 22.91 centavos/kWh starting January 2017. That’s also bad news because FiT payments by consumers keep rising fast. From an introductory price of only 4 centavos/kWh in 2015, became 12.40 centavos/kWh in 2016, and almost 23 centavos/kWh this year.

Now two factors will raise the FiT-All for 2017 beyond 23 centavos. (1) ERC will not be able to act on this by January or not even February 2017, that means there will be price underrecoveries that must be added to the original requested price. And (2) with low WESM prices the past few months — P3.19/kWh last September, P2.91/kWh last October, P2.54/kWh last November (data from Meralco), and the P2.28/kWh ESSP last December — this means that FiT-All will go up. This allowance is the difference between FiT rates (highest prices are solar of P10+/kWh this year due to price escalation, followed by wind, then biomass, cheapest is run of river hydro) and average WESM prices. Or FiT-ALL = FiT rates — WESM prices

Expensive electricity is the hallmark of renewable energy favoritism anywhere in the world.

Understand that in my previous columns, it was shown that the main beneficiaries of expensive electricity from renewables in the Philippines are not ordinary firms but huge companies: the Lopez group (EDC Burgos wind) and Ayala group (Northern Luzon UPC Caparispisan wind, and Northwind Bangui) who got P8.53/kWh FiT and combined revenues of about P4.3 billion in 2015 alone.

Let us check Germany’s renewables output. The chart below is for the last three months, Oct. 23, 2016 to Jan. 22, 2017.

Last Jan. 8, its total electricity consumption was 57.4 GW and here are the renewables output that day: solar 0.23 GW, onshore wind 1.53 GW, and offshore wind 0.39, or a total output of only 2.15 GW from these three renewables (see chart).

o4big_012417

A total of only 2.1 GW was generated by solar-wind sources or only 3.7% of 57.4 GW power demand. If Germany relied solely on wind-solar, that would have meant massive, large-scale, and catastrophic blackouts. Germany of course was saved by the power plants that it wants to banish someday — fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas plus nuke power, within Germany and from energy imports from its European neighbors — and which it kept running. So we did not hear or read such massive blackouts in Europe’s biggest economy.

Aside from expensive direct cost of wind and solar in Germany due to FiT, there is additional indirect cost of higher transmission cost. From a news report, “The Energiewende is running up against its limits” last Oct. 21, 2016 (http://energypost.eu/energiewende-running-limits/)

“German transmission system operator Tennet recently announced an 80% increase in its transmission fees because of the high construction costs of new power lines to accommodate renewable energy. A study of the Düsseldorf Institute for Competition Economics found that by 2025 costs of the Energiewende could exceed €25,000 for an average four-person household.”

The Joint Congressional Power Commission should consider introducing a law in the future that will abolish the RE Act of 2008 (RA 9513). Penalizing the energy consumers to further enrich the favored and crony firms in renewable energy is wrong.

Top 10 energy news of 2016

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last January 6, 2017.

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Here is my list of 5 international and 5 national or Philippine important energy issues last year.

INTERNATIONAL

  1. Donald Trump and his energy policies.

US president-elect Donald Trump’s energy policies are summarized in his major campaign platform, “Seven actions to protect American workers” and these include:

“FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal… SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to UN climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.”

So far some of Mr. Trump’s Cabinet Secretaries are his fellow skeptics of the anthropogenic or “man-made” climate change claim (climate change is largely cyclical and natural or “nature-made”), or simply pro-oil. These include: (a) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head is Scott Pruitt, former attorney general of Oklahoma; (b) DoE Secretary is former Texas Governor Rick Perry who is pro-drilling; and (c) Secretary of State is Rex Tillerson, CEO of the oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp.

  1. OPEC cut on oil production.

For eight years, OPEC never cut its oil production despite declining oil prices to protect its global market share under intense pressure from huge shale oil supply from the US. In November 2016, OPEC finally blinked and decided to cut their collective oil output by 1.2 million barrels per day (mbpd) hoping for an increase in oil prices. Non-OPEC countries like Russia and Mexico made an agreement with OPEC to cut output by another 0.56 mbpd, for a total projected output cutback of about 1.8 mbpd. So far, price impact was marginal as oil prices before this OPEC decision was already touching $50 a barrel. But once US shale oil output ramps up, this marginal price increase can easily be reversed.

  1. More wind-solar means more expensive electricity in selected countries in Europe.

The numbers below show that countries with expensive electricity (1-5) have zero or little nuclear power, have high wind power (except Belgium and Italy), and high solar capacity (except Spain). And cheaper electricity countries (6-10) have high nuclear power (except UK and Netherlands) and low wind (except Sweden), low solar capacity (see Table 1).

o4a_010617

  1. By 2040, 46% of global energy demand will come from Asia Pacific.

Based on a recent report by Exxon Mobil which grabbed global energy headlines, it said that it expects China, India, and the rest of Asia Pacific (including Japan, ASEAN, and Australia) will increase its global share of total energy demand from 234 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUS) in 2015 to 322 quadrillion BTUs by 2040. The percentage share of the region will rise from 41% of global demand in 2015 to 46% by 2040. In contrast, the share of EU and the US combined will shrink from 28% in 2015 to only 22% by 2040 (see Table 2).

o4b_010617

  1. By 2040, wind, solar, biomass, other renewables will contribute only 11% of total global power generation.

Coal will remain the dominant source in power generation worldwide by 2040 but its share will decline from 44% in 2015 to 34% by 2040. The share of natural gas and nuclear power combined will increase from 38% in 2015 to 45% by 2040. The share of wind, solar, geothermal and other renewables will marginally increase from 6% in 2015 to 11% by 2040, despite all the political noise worldwide that these renewables will get “cheaper than coal” and attain “grid parity” with conventional sources like coal and natural gas.

PHILIPPINES

  1. Search for an Independent Market Operator (IMO) of WESM.

In the last Congress, then Sen. Serge Osmeña, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy conducted a series of meetings until January 2016 about the absence of an IMO that is supposed to manage the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). The Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC) as market operator of WESM remains weird because (a) PEMC Board is chaired by the DoE Secretary, many board members are government officials; (b) Even the supposed four independent directors plus consumer representative (5 total) are all appointed by the DoE Secretary; and (c) PEMC is regulated by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), which is under the administrative control of the DoE Secretary, who chairs the PEMC that is regulated by ERC.

  1. WESM Mindanao, IMEM.

Aside from issues on the new Market Management System (MMS) for WESM rules and the transition to a real IMO, the move to create a WESM in Mindanao via the Interim Mindanao Electricity Market (IMEM) is gaining ground. The Mindanao dispatch protocol will have to be spelled out in detail too.

  1. Imposition of Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).

In June 2016, the DoE issued a draft Department Circular (DC) on RPS, a provision in the RE Act of 2008 (RA 9513) that “requires electricity suppliers to source an agreed portion of their energy supply from eligible RE resources.” This RPS will result in more expensive electricity because wind, solar, biomass, and small hydro that are not given feed in tariff (FiT) privilege of guaranteed price for 20 years can demand higher price for their energy output because distribution utilities will have zero choice but buy from them otherwise the DoE will penalize them.

The draft DC wanted an initial “2.15% to be applied to the total supply portfolio of the Mandated Participant in each grid.” When asked what will be the projected price implication of such policy, DoE and National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) officials answered that no study on price implications has been made yet. A weird proposal where proponents have no clear idea on the cost of implementation to energy consumers, the DC was shelved.

  1. Shift in energy mix from energy source to system capability.

During the administration of DoE Secretaries Petilla and Monsada, the DoE wanted an energy mix based on energy source or technology, 30-30-30-10 for coal-natural gas-RE-oil, respectively. This is highly distortionary because many REs are either seasonal (hydro can be baseload only during the rainy season, biomass can be baseload only if feedstock is available) or intermittent like wind and solar. New DoE Secretary Cusi changed the energy mix based on system capability: 70-20-10 for base load-mid merit-peaking plants, respectively. This is a more rational mixture.

  1. Endless demand for expanded, higher feed in tariff (FiT).

As more solar farms and wind farms are constructed nationwide, their developers and owners are lobbying hard for an expanded FiT 2 with guaranteed price for 20 years. Even geothermal developers also lobbied that their new plants should also be given FiT. Currently, three wind developers — Trans-Asia Renewable Energy Corporation (TAREC), Alternergy Wind One Corporation (AWOC), and Petrowind Energy, Inc. (PWEI) are petitioning the ERC that their FiT rate be raised from P7.40/kWh to P7.93/kWh. Three wind farms were lucky or favored to get P8.53/kWh under the original FiT — EDC Burgos (Lopez group), Northern Luzon UPC Caparispisan (Ayala group) and Northwind Power Bangui (partly Ayala).

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.

el-summit

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.

el-summit2

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

Jarius Bondoc on FIT for renewables

I am reposting the article of Jarius Bondoc in his column in Philippine Startoday. My comments and discussions after his paper.

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Enough is enough. Developers of renewable energy (RE) must stop making us electricity users subsidize their insolvent solar and wind farms. They’re already wheedling P8 billion a year from us. That windfall, called feed-in tariff (FIT) in our monthly bill, enables their clean energy to compete with cheap but dirty coal. Yet precisely because the FIT is free money for them, they feel no compulsion to improve their output and bring down costs. And now they have the gall to ask for even higher subsidies starting next month.

RE inflicts a double whammy on our monthly electricity bill. The FIT subsidy of 12.4 centavos per kilowatt-hour per se swells the bill by two percent. Worse, RE further inflates the cost of generating electricity to almost 50 percent. That’s because the mix of power sources that go into the generation grid is such that 30 percent must come from the inefficient but favored RE plants.

Why is RE inefficient? That’s for the developers to explain. For decades they’ve been enjoying state subsidies worldwide to improve. Yet solar farms are only 23-percent capable of converting and storing sunlight to power. It even costs more electricity to produce one solar panel than the energy it will produce when laid out under the sun. That production process even uses acids and oxides that emit greenhouse gases and create waste, National Geographic reports. Statistics for wind are worse. The mills even directly kill flocks of birds and bats that fly into the rotors, as well as add to noise pollution. As it is now, RE worsens climate change.

To justify their subsidies, RE developers must point to a bogeyman: coal. Hiding their own bad effects on health and environment, they demonize coal as a killer fuel. They want the Philippines to switch to more RE and lessen coal from the present 39 percent of the generation mix. In truth, however, coal has become cleaner than it was three decades ago. Pollution is basically the result of wasteful processes. But coal plants have tremendously improved efficiencies, and this reduced waste and pollution. That is why Europe, where environment laws are strictest, has coal making up 25 percent of the generation mix.

Cases long have been made against subsidies to certain industries. Congress, controlled in the ‘60s-’70s by sugar barons, allocated billions of pesos a year to subsidize the plantations and central mills. Supposedly it was to enable the hacienderos to compete with foreigners, upgrade their facilities, and uplift their farm workers. The result is well documented. The sacada seasonal workers became poorer than ever, the plantation and mill technologies remained backward, while the hacienderos used the subsidies to buy Rolls Royces and Aston Martins.

That is what’s happening today. FIT subsidies of P8 billion a year are now blocked off for the next two to three decades for the new RE oligarchs. Some of them are relatives of the very politicos who imposed the FIT subsidies. Living off us electricity consumers, they will not improve their technologies or raise salaries of their workers or bring down their costs to below that of their hated coal. Why should they, when that would mean erasing the excuse for their FIT subsidies. Meantime, Filipinos remain poor because electricity cost – the highest in Asia – discourages employment-generating investments and ultimate economic development.  We electricity consumers should not let those RE oligarchs buy up all the luxury condos and executive jets at our expense.
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Many good points by Jarius. May I add the following:

1. Feed in tariff (FIT) Allowance for renewables, especially wind and solar, is not P8 B a year, much larger than that. It’s about P11 B in 2015, P20 B this year, and P23 B in 2017.

fit
Source: Transco petition for FIT-All for 2016, ERC CASE NO. 2015-216 RC, p. 10.

2. On solar inefficiency, its capacity factor can range from only 18% (in PH, WESM data) to 23-25% in developed countries like the US.

fit2

3. On solar panels “production process even uses acids and oxides that emit greenhouse gases and create waste”, more than that, solar farms require zero trees within and near the vicinity. On average, it takes 2 hectares of land to produce 1 MW of installed capacity.

Consider this solar farm in Calatagan, Batangas: 63 MW capacity on 160 hectares of land. Zero tree allowed. The main hindrance to solar power generation is shade — from clouds and tall trees nearby.

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So while many environmentalists say, “Plant trees to save the planet”, the solar environmentalists say “Zero tree to save the planet.”

4. On “electricity cost – the highest in Asia”, more of 2nd highest after Japan. For the ASEAN, here’s one data.

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Source: M. Ravago, R. Fabella, R. Alonzo, R. Danao, and D. Mapa, “FILIPINO 2040 ENERGY: POWER SECURITY AND COMPETITIVENESS”, EPDP paper, October 2016, p.2.

Nonetheless, it is a good paper. Congrats, Jarius.

What companies receive FIT and by how much?

FIT1May 19, 2016.

This is the subject of my letter to the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) last Monday. TransCo is a government corporation that owns all the transmission assets of the government. Among its five key responsibilities is to administer the Feed-in-Tariff Allowance (FIT-All) Fund for renewable energy (RE) generators. Its website clearly and proudly discusses the FIT system and why it is “good” for electricity consumers because of its “merit order effect”.

I wrote to their customerservice@transco.ph early morning of May 16, 2016:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to request for data on (a) list of RE companies that have received FIT, 2015-2016, (b) how much each company received, (c) total FIT payment, (d) related data that you may want to share.

I will use the data for a research paper that I am writing for our think tank, Minimal Government Thinkers, which I hope to send you and the DOE a copy, and a short version for my column in BusinessWorld. I assume these are public data as the money collected is taken from electricity consumers nationwide.

Thank you very much and I hope to  hear from you.

Sincerely,

Bienvenido “Nonoy” Oplas, Jr.
President, Minimal Government Thinkers, Inc.
Fellow, South East Asia Network for Development
Fellow, Stratbase-Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi)
Columnist, BusinessWorld, My Cup of Liberty

I did not get any reply. I followed it up with another email  yesterday morning,

Hi,

I would like to ask if you can share this data with me.
Thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Bienvenido Oplas, Jr.

Still no reply. Ahh, this must be among their “top secret” data perhaps? One problem with the absence of a Freedom of Information (FOI) law or Exec. Order is that certain government offices can only collect-charge-bill-fine us ordinary people and when we ask where the money went to, they can only give one standard reply, the Sound of silence.

FIT2Anyway, I saw this report in Business Mirror the other day, among the numbers reported there:

“FiT subscriptions for RE resources have significantly increased to 806.82 megawatts (mW) from 646.65 mW installations since the start of 2016. The following are the FiT subscriptions to date: Biomass has 11 power plants with a total capacity of 94.25 mW; hydro has four accounting for 26.6 mW; wind has six accounting for 393.9 mW.

Meanwhile, as of March 15, 2016, the DOE issued Certificates of Endorsement for FiT Eligibility (COE-FiT) to 11 solar-power plants accounting for 292.07 mW to the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). More solar-power projects may be issued COE-FiT at the completion of the ongoing validation and assessment of the submissions received by the DOE in relation to the March 15 deadline for the expanded FiT for solar-power projects.”

So, as of March 15, 2016, DOE issued COE-FiT for the following installations:

* Wind with six power plants, 393.9 MW,
* Solar with 11 plants, 292.07 MW,
* Biomass with 11 plants, 94.25 MW,
* Hydro with four plants, 26.6 MW,
Total  806.82 MW.

I just want to know who are those 6 wind plants, 11 solar plants, etc. and how much did they get from the 4.06 centavos/kWh that we consumers paid to them from February 2015 to March 2016. The FIT has been raised to 12.40 centavos/kWh starting April 2016.

Expensive electricity is lousy. Making it even more expensive with extra charges like FIT-All is lousier. And when we ask who are these companies that receive the extra charges, the answer is a Sound of silence.

Hi TransCo, I still hope to receive a reply from you. I hope to write another paper about you soon, whether you give a reply (and some data) or not. You will receive this blog post via email, fb, twitter, etc. Three of your Board Members are Cabinet Secretaries — DOF, DOE, DENR. They all have twitter accounts. Thank you.

May 21, 2016.

Today, I received a reply from Transco, they sent me two tables, the FIT-All cash flow and fund payables as of end-December 2015. They also gave me the name of the person I should talk to, the office local tel. no.

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Thank you Transco. I still need the list of companies that received and about to receive the FIT-All. I will call next week.

FIT-All, renewables and election 2016

* This is my article in BusinessWorld yesterday.

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The increase in feed in tariff-allowance (FIT-All) has been approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) recently. As a result, Meralco and all other distribution utilities nationwide will be collecting 12.40 centavos per kWh of electricity consumption starting this month. The amount is higher than higher than 4.06 centavos/kWh that was collected in 2015.

Even consumers from Mindanao — an island not connected to the Visayas and Luzon grids — will pay this FIT. If Mindanao consumers are spared of this additional charge, the FIT-All will be much larger in Luzon and the Visayas, which host an increasing number of wind and solar farms. Another FIT hike will be expected next year.

Unlike the previous electricity price hikes that met a big public backlash, such as the price hikes of P4+/kWh in November-December 2013 which should go back to old rates after two or three months, FIT additional collections are not short term but long term and can last 20 to 30 years or more.

The Philippines has the highest electricity prices in the ASEAN and has the second-highest in Asia, next to Japan. This is not good especially if we are serious in attracting more investments that can give more jobs to more Filipinos (see graph).

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There are many factors why this is so, among which are the various taxes, fees, and royalties imposed by the Philippine government on energy sources (like the natural gas royalty from Malampaya gas field in Palawan) and on companies themselves.

In the coming general elections next month, all presidential candidates support more renewables. Sen. Grace Poe even proposed that power distributors should be “compelled” to use renewable energy. Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is explicit in supporting more coal power plants, and administration candidate Mar Roxas supports the use cleaner fossil fuel like natural gas, along with renewables.

Among Senatoriables, it is weird that former DoE Secretary Jericho Petilla would even blame some provisions of the EPIRA law of 2001 for the high cost of electricity in the country, saying that the law prevents the government from putting up new power plants that can help rival private generation companies.

Government-owned National Power Corporation (NPC) used to be the sole power plant owner and operator nationwide. Instead of bringing down the cost of electricity while raising power capacity, NPC has largely succeeded in piling up huge amount of debts, mountains of debts hundreds of billions of pesos, that it could not pay and hence, were ultimately passed on to taxpayers.

Renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal, and hydroelectric have the following characteristics that are dissimilar to conventional sources like coal and natural gas. Among these are: (1) zero or near-zero variable operations and maintenance (O&M) cost, but (2) low capacity factor or actual electricity production relative to its rated capacity, except geothermal, (3) high levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) and, (4) generally higher electricity prices if subsidies are not given.

LCOE is a good summary measure of the overall competitiveness of different power generation technologies representing the per kWh cost of building and operating a power plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle.

Here is the LCOE in the US four years from today. The capacity factor is generally higher compared to those in developing countries like the Philippines (see table).

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When the Renewable Energy (RE) Act of 2008 (RA 9513) was created, a lot of subsidies were put in the law that effectively pampered developers of renewables like solar, wind, and biomass. Among these are the: (1) feed in tariff-allowance (FIT-All), (2) priority and mandatory dispatch into the grid, (3) renewable portfolio standards (RPS) or the minimum share of renewables in power generation, and (4) various fiscal incentives.

The list of those various subsidies and incentives, FIT rates in Germany and the Philippines, are also discussed in my earlier article, “Feed in tariff means more expensive electricity” published by the Albert del Rosario Institute (ADRi) blog, Spark.

A FIT that increases every year — which has already taken place in Germany, UK and other European economies, and now in the Philippines — means rising electricity prices even if generation, transmission, distribution, supply, and various other fees and tax rates remain the same.

So far, it seems that not a single candidate for a national position has openly criticized this setup of ever-rising electricity prices in the country. On the contrary, some candidates even justify expensive electricity so that we can help “save the planet.”

Expensive electricity means more dark streets at night as LGUs, villages, and households save on their monthly electricity bills. When many streets and roads are dark at night, there are more road accidents, more destruction of public and private properties, more crimes, more rapes, injuries, and deaths.

Worse, when some households’ electricity connection is temporarily cut off due to non-payment, people have to use candles for a few hours or days, and candles are among the major causes of fires. These social costs are often avoided or not recognized by the campaigners of expensive, unstable renewables.

Expensive electricity also means less businesses and jobs that can potentially be created here. Energy-intensive companies and manufacturing plants will try to avoid investing in the Philippines — where electricity prices are expensive — since they will put up their factories and big offices in ASEAN countries with lower energy costs, then export to the Philippines at zero tariff. They only rent smaller offices here to facilitate business transactions.

As a developing and emerging economy, we should have cheaper electricity, bigger power capacity and reserves to ensure 24/7 availability of power, even in periods of huge spikes in electricity demand or damaged power facilities due to strong storms or earthquakes.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers, a Fellow of SEANET and Albert del Rosario Institute.minimalgovernment@gmail.com

Feed in tariff means more expensive electricity

01* This is my article inSPARK by ADRi last April  06, 2016
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The Philippines has the unhealthy label of having the “second or third most expensive electricity prices in Asia” next to Japan and Singapore. This is not a good news for energy-intensive industries like manufacturing and hotels where electricity demand can be running 24/7.

With ASEAN economic integration, many big energy-intensive industries will be put up in cheaper-electricity countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia, then export to the Philippines at zero tariff. That means potential job creation that fails to materialize here.

It is important then that all succeeding government energy policies should be geared towards reducing the prices of electricity. Unfortunately, we are doing the opposite with the implementation of the feed in  tariff (FIT), priority dispatch, and  renewable portfolio standards (RPS) under the Renewable Energy law of 2008 (RA 9513).

FIT means guaranteed fixed price for solar, wind, biomass and run-of-river hydro for 20 years. FIT for solar and wind in particular are 2x current average prices of conventional energy sources. Priority dispatch means even if cheaper conventional energy is available, expensive renewables will be prioritized in the grid. And RPS is the minimum percentage of generation that should come from eligible RE resources.

Let us briefly review the  case of Germany – #1 in solar installation  in the planet, #3 in wind after the  US and China, and perhaps having the most gallant policies  in FIT, other subsidies, and priority dispatch of renewables in the industrialized world.

Figure 1. Electricity prices in selected rich countries, 2015.

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Source: Gilbert Kreijger, Stefan Theil, Allison Williams,  “How to Kill an Industry”, Handelblatt, 24 March 2016, https://global.handelsblatt.com/edition/396/ressort/companies-markets/article/how-to-kill-an-industry

So Germany has the most expensive residential electricity tariff and second most expensive in industrial tariff next to Japan. The authors further made these observations:

* Ordinary consumers saw their electricity bills double since the introduction in 2000 of RE; total cost has risen from €0.9 billion in 2000 to €23.7 billion last year and will likely hit €25.5 billion this year.

* Some 350,000 German households have had their power cut off, up 13 percent from 2011. Shocking inefficiency with RE producing €25 billion in electricity-bill surcharges this year will only be worth €3.6 billion on the market.

* Green-power surcharge on electricity bills already cost consumers €188 billion since it was first introduced in 2000 – or €4,700 for each of the country’s 40 million households. The nuclear shutdown will cost another €149 billion by 2035, according to a Stuttgart University study.

How expensive is FIT in Germany that they are among the factors why a number of that country’s top manufacturing and energy-intensive firms like Siemens and BASF are moving or have already moved their production facilities abroad?

Figure 2. FIT rates in Germany, lessons for the Philippines

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Source for Germany: No Tricks Zone, Germany’s Electricity Price More Than Doubles…Electrocuting Consumers And Markets, December 07, 2014.

In 2003 in Germany, FIT constituted only 2.4% of the electricity price. By 2011, it ballooned to 14% and further up to 21.4% by 2014. In the Philippines, there is a huge % increase in the FIT-Allowance (or FIT-ALL) from 2015 to 2016, tripling FIT-ALL rates in just one year.

The RE law or RA 9513 was enacted in December 2008 but FIT was only granted in July 20012 mainly due to public opposition to more expensive electricity, and was finally implemented in February 2015. Starting this April 2016, the FIT-ALL will rise to 12.40 centavos/kWh. Households that consume up to 200 kWh a month will pay an extra P24.80. Households that consume up to 300 kWh a month will pay an extra P37.20/month.

Aside from FIT, priority dispatch and RPS, the RE law gives many other subsidies or relaxation of taxation to renewable producers, privileges that are denied to producers of conventional but cheaper power sources. Among these additional sweetheart deals contained in Section 7 of RA 9513 are: income tax holiday for 7 years, duty-free importation of RE machinery, equipment and materials within the first 10 years, special realty tax rates, net operating loss carry over (NOLCO) for the next 7 years, 10% corporate tax rate (not 30%), and tax exemption of carbon credits.

Renewables are good and useful because they help expand power capacity in the country. But the FIT, other subsidies and privileges given to them are not, they contribute to more expensive electricity prices and grid-destabilizing power supply that go up or down within minutes.

If cheaper electricity, more stable power supply, and more investments and job creation are to be the priority for the Philippines, we should allow market pricing of energy sources and in the grid dispatch. The expanded MW allocation for solar, from the original 50 MW to 500 MW, should be recalled. There are pressure and lobbying to further raise solar allocation to 2,000 MW to be eligible to FIT.

Compromise measures would look like these: (1) revert the FIT-eligible solar allocation from 500 MW back to 50 MW, or down to 250 MW but retain priority dispatch for solar at market rates for up to 1,000 MW. (2) revert the FIT-eligible wind allocation from 400 MW back to the original 20 MW, but retain priority dispatch for wind at market rates up to 1,000 MW.

Biomass and run-of-river hydro do not create much problem now compared to solar and wind. So the existing FIT-eligible allocation of 250 MW for both can be retained. Additional pressures to expand this capacity should be resisted too.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is a Fellow of the Albert del Rosario Institute, a BusinessWorld columnist, and President of Minimal Government Thinkers. minimalgovernment@gmail.com.