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.

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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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Alex Magno on FIT and renewables

Reposting an article today by Alex Magno in Philippine Star.

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A businessman-friend sent me a message the other day, railing about how the P18 billion raised through Feed-in Tariffs (FIT) charged electricity consumers could have been used to build a chain of recharging stations in the metropolitan area. Instead, as intended by our corrupt policies, FIT collections went to political cronies who claim they are saving the environment by investing in renewable energy.

With a chain of recharging stations in place, we could leapfrog the jeepney modernization program to use electric, not just Euro-4 compliant, vehicles. The technology is there. The recharging stations are not.

The environmental impact of clearing out the dirty diesel engines and putting in electric vehicles will be dramatic. The death toll from polluted air should drop remarkably.

FIT collects billions from consumers, keeping our power price regime high therefore depleting our manufacturing. In 2015, total FIT collections amounted to P10.22 billion. In 2016, with adjustments in the FIT rate, total collections ballooned to P18.54 billion. Estimated FIT collections for 2017 is placed at P24.44 billion.

Not a single peso from FIT collections goes to improvement of infrastructure. All the billions shelled out by poor electricity consumers via FIT go to offsetting business risks and ensuring profits for those who set up renewable energy facilities. The cronies who benefit from this have pulled off a massive scam by wrapping their enterprise with the cloak of political correctness.

It is not too late to scuttle this scam. We have much to learn from the experience of Australia on this matter.

As demand nears supply, Australians now realize that renewable energy is not a dependable source. It cannot provide the baseload capacity an economy needs to achieve energy security. Subsidizing renewable energy merely raises electricity prices, undercutting an economy’s ability to compete.

Renewable energy is well and good if consumers are not forced to subside them. In our case, the subsidies are better used to modernize mass transport systems.

Our backward and inefficient public transport system is, after all, the biggest contributor to the degradation of air quality in the urban centers where most of our people now live.

The cult of political correctness has misled many environmental activists otherwise acting in good faith. They ended up justifying FIT subsidies and, at the behest of cronies, demonizing coal power generation. They gloss over the fact that new technologies for coal power generation have made the iconic black smokestacks a thing of the past.

Those who make profits without assuming business risks by using FIT had the gall to demand even higher rates of subsidies from consumers. Fortunately, Energy Secretary Al Cusi has a clearer grasp of things. He rejected demands to further raise FIT rates.

Bjorn Lomborg on World energy mix

I am reposting here a post by Bjørn Lomborg in his fb wall early today. Thanks for this great piece, Bjorn.
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The world is mostly run on fossil fuels (81.4%). Nuclear makes up 5% with 13.6% from renewables. Solar panels and wind turbines contribute less than 0.7%.

When you hear 13.6% renewables, you will likely think ‘wow, things are going pretty well with the change-over to renewables’. But these are not the ones you hear about. The biggest contributor is wood, used in the poor world to cook and keep warm. This leads to terrible indoor air pollution – it is actually the world’s deadliest environmental problem, killing some 4.3 million people each year. We should definitely hope the poor will have to use *less* polluting wood in the future.

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The other main contributors of renewables are biofuels (e.g. the American forests, cut down and shipped across the Atlantic to be burnt in European power plants to be called green and CO₂ neutral) and hydropower. In total, that makes up 12.1%. The last 1.5% comes mostly from geothermal energy (0.54%) and wind turbines (0.53%) along with solar heaters in China, tidal power etc. (0.29%) and solar panels (0.13%).

Contrary to the weight of news stories on how solar and wind is taking over the world, solar panels and wind turbines really make up a very small part of the global energy mix. (I started out coloring solar panels yellow, but the thin sliver at the top became invisible.)

Sources: The International Energy Agency has released their latest Renewable Energy Information 2017, http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/…/renewables-information…. It contains 488 pages of data, with preliminary data for the rich world for 2016, but for the entire world for 2015. Unfortunately, the data is not free.

Since solar PV constitutes such a small part of the energy supply, the International Energy Agency combines it with tidal, solar CSP and solar thermal (the water heaters on rooftops for direct hot water). In 2014, the split was 34% for solar PV, 0% for tidal, 6% for CSP and 60% for thermal, so I applied the same split to the data for 2015.

All data is Total Primary Energy Supply, which is the International Energy Agency’s own main measure, also used in all their graphs for global energy balances.

Why a carbon tax is wrong

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cronyism in Renewable energy, gas sectors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy Trilemma Index 2016

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last August 11, 2017.

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The Philippines has acquired a growth momentum that started a few years ago in the past administration and we are now looked upon as among the fastest growing economies in the world. Sustaining fast GDP growth will require stable and cheaper energy because almost all economic activities now require energy and electricity.

energy-081117The World Energy Council (WEC), a UN-accredited global energy body composed of 3,000+ organizations from 90+ countries (governments, private and state corporations, academe, NGOs, other energy stakeholders) produces the annual World Energy Trilemma Index.

The Trilemma index is based on a range of data sets that capture both energy performance and their context, indicating energy sustainability of countries. The index is composed of three factors: energy security, energy equity, and environmental sustainability, defined as follows:

Energy security — effective management of primary energy supply from domestic and external sources, reliability of energy infrastructure, and ability of energy providers to meet current and future demand.

Energy equity — accessibility and affordability of energy supply across the population.

Environmental stability — achievement of supply and demand-side energy efficiencies and development of energy supply from renewable and other low-carbon sources.

There are 125 countries covered and ranked. Top five countries overall in the 2016 report are Denmark, Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands, and Germany. Here are the rankings of selected Asian countries. Some Asian economies not included in the study are Indonesia, Taiwan, and Vietnam (see table).

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Based on these numbers, here are the implications for the Philippines in energy policy:

  1. Environmental sustainability: We are already world’s number one in this category. We have high reliance on renewables like hydro and geothermal plus newly added renewables like run of river hydro, biomass, solar and wind. There is no need to “further decarbonize” as suggested by the CCC, DENR and other greenies, suggesting that we close or discontinue having more coal power plants.
  2. Energy equity: We are very low here, ranking 92nd because of our expensive electricity, 3rd highest in Asia next to Japan and Hong Kong. However, there has been a steady decrease in generation cost of electricity in the country. The Load Weighted Average Price (LWAP) at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) has decreased from an average P5.37/kWh in 2012 to P4.65 in 2014 and further down to P2.81 in 2016. This is the result of more big coal plants, more players, more competition. But there are other factors that can neutralize these as discussed further below.
  3. Energy security: We are midway, ranking 61 out of 125 countries in this category. We need to add more big conventional plants to take over many aging plants, and to put in place an LNG facility in Batangas to import gas in case no substantial gas reserves are discovered when Malampaya gas runs out sometime around 2024.

There are at least four dangers in Philippine energy policies resulting in prices either rising or flatlining.

One is feed-in-tariff (FiT) or guaranteed high prices for 20 years for variables renewables especially wind-solar. FiT has been rising steadily and slam-dunking all electricity consumers from Aparri to Tawi-tawi: four centavos/kWh in 2015, 12.40 centavos in 2016, 18 centavos middle of this year, and going up to 26 centavos (Transco petition at the Energy Regulatory Commission [ERC]) later this year.

Two is transmission charge. NGCP must add more ancillary services to stabilize power supply from intermittent wind-solar, and build more transmission facilities in far-flung areas where these wind-solar plants are constructed. Consequently, transmission fees will slowly and steadily rise.

Three is system losses. High losses in provinces — areas which are run by monopoly electric cooperatives (ECs) — are ultimately passed on to the consumers. Current ERC and legislative proposals plan to allow these ECs to retain their high system losses while pressuring private distribution utilities (DUs), which on average have low system losses, to further bring this down.

Four is the impending renewable portfolio standards (RPS). This will require all ECs, DUs, and retail electricity suppliers (RES) to get a mandatory, minimum percentage of their electricity sales to come from expensive wind-solar and other variable renewables. If these renewables are cheap and getting cheaper as claimed by their developers and lobbyists, there is no need for RPS. But because they are expensive, RPS is made mandatory and coercively imposed.

Nature has given the Philippines energy advantage. Volcanoes have given us plenty of geothermal resources and potentials. Our big mountains have given us more waterfalls and big river systems.

Government policies favor expensive electricity via FiT, RPS, priority dispatch of renewables at WESM, accommodating more renewables in the grid. These policies must be reversed soon. Only then will we have higher scores in energy equity and energy security and finally, economic security.

Solar can replace coal power in the PH?

There is a funny claim by the President of Solar Philippines, also son of Sen. Loren Legarda, Leandro Leviste. Reported in BWorld today.

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Look at his claim: solar at P5.39/kWh vs average generation cost from different sources at P8.17/kWh.

These numbers seem like jokes. Here’s why.

1. The average generation charges of Meralco were P4.85/kWh in May and P4.37/kWh in June 2017, which already includes the more expensive peaking plants. These are almost half of Mr. Leviste’s P8.17/kWh data. Where did he get that number, perhaps from one of the inefficient electric cooperatives in the country?

See table below. These power plants are mostly coal and natural gas. #7 “Others” are mostly peaking plants from TMO, Panay, Toledo and 1590 Energy Corp., see their low dispatch rate of 13.3% and low energy share of only 1.4% of total, meaning they run only during peak hours, few hours a day.

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Source: http://corporate-downloadables-rates-archive-generation.s3.amazonaws.com/1498532289.cc4df9f40e1e8a8e42127b9ad1c5f0de.pdf

2. Mr. Leviste’s P5.39/kWh solar price is cool, if true. Because solar feed in tariff (FIT) or guaranteed price for 20 years is almost double that price. Solar plants that were granted FIT in 2015 would be getting P10.26/kWh this 2017.

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3. Solar has low capacity factor, only about 18% (about 36% day time, zero at night time). When it’s day time but cloudy and raining, solar output will be low, capacity factor below 30%. If the solar plant will divert part of this for storage in battery so that it can produce power at night, then the already low solar output will become even lower. Plus the cost of huge batteries, they can quickly raise the price of solar to perhaps 2x of what Mr. Leviste claims.

So to answer the question in the title, the quick answer is NO. Intermittent, expensive solar energy can not replace stable, predictable and cheaper energy like coal and natgas.

Government should step back from price control in energy via assured, guaranteed high price for solar-wind-biomass-ror hydro. Also step back from priority and mandatory feed of variable renewables like wind-solar in the grid that contributes to grid instability due to intermittent, easy-come-easy-go energy sources.