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.

Brownouts, ancillary services and transmission charge

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last February 23, 2017.


Rotational and scheduled brownouts for several hours about once a month, then unscheduled short brownouts from time to time, have become a regular experience in the two provinces of Negros island. Despite the installation of many huge solar plants in recent years.

I am currently in Sagay hospital in Negros Occidental to visit my seriously sick father. Last night, there was brownout for about 10 minutes, the hospital’s generator set immediately takes over to supply electricity to their patients and staff.

The Facebook page of the Central Negros Electric Cooperative (CENECO) gives frequent advisory of power interruption that lasts for nine hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) until this month.

Stories and testimonies of frequent brownouts in many cities and municipalities of Negros Oriental in 2016 are also reported in

In June 2016, the Department of Energy (DoE) said that line congestion is building up in Negros Occidental due to many solar power plants operating in the province. The abrupt influx of solar power plants is causing the main line, transmission and interconnection lines to congest (Sun Star Bacolod, June 10, 2016).

This month, Negros Occidental Electric Cooperative (NOCECO) explained that one of the main reasons of higher electricity is the increase in the transmission charge from P1.0538/kWh in January 2017 to P1.1777/kWh in February 2017 or an increase of 0.1239/kWh. The transmission rate hike is due to the increase in the ancillary service charges of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP).

There are at least two issues here. First is the presence of more brownouts in Negros island despite its having the most number of installed solar power plants per sq. km. of land in the whole country, more than 300 MW.

Solar power is very unstable and intermittent, zero output at night and very low output when it is cloudy, or power fluctuates wildly if clouds come and go in minutes. So there should be more ancillary services or standby power plants, usually natural gas or diesel plants, that should quickly provide power when thick clouds come and when evening comes. Still, this causes power fluctuations that damage machines, engines and appliances running on electricity and the leadership of Negros chamber of commerce and industry have pointed this out to the DoE and NGCP last year.

Second, how is the NGCP regulated and accounted in its transmission charge pricing and assets management?

Power generation is deregulated and hence, the extent of competition among many players is the main regulator of the generation charge. Distribution charge is regulated by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) because distribution utilities (DUs) like Meralco and the roughly 119 electric cooperatives (ECs) nationwide are all monopolies in their respective franchise areas.

So while there are 120+ distribution monopolies composed of private DUs and ECs, the NGCP is a single, national monopoly in power transmission.

There are 12 different charges in our monthly electricity bill. The top six in the table below, and these five charges with lesser rates: (7) universal charge, (8) cross subsidy charge, (9) lifeline rate subsidy, (10) senior citizen subsidy, and (11) feed in tariff allowance (FiT-All). No. (12) are value-added tax (VAT) and other government taxes, these are huge too but not included in the table because they are unrelated to the electricity system.

Of these 12 different charges, subsidies and taxes, the smallest is #10 while the fastest growing is #11, FiT-All: P0.04/kWh in 2015, 0.124/kWh in 2016, and set to rise to P0.23-P0.25/kWh this 2017, the ERC still has to decide on the Transco petition for FiT-All hike (see table).

Notice in the table above the following: (1) In 2013 vs. 2017, all five charges have declined in rates in 2017 except transmission charge which has remained practically the same at P0.91/kWh. And (2) In 2014 vs. 2015, a similar pattern where all five charges have declined in rates in 2015 except transmission charge which has even increased to nearly P1/kWh.

The possible explanations why the transmission charge by NGCP seems to be the odd man out among the top six charges are (1) rising cost of more ancillary services as more intermittent solar-wind power are added into the grid, (2) it passes its own system loss to the transmission charge, (3) it simply behaves like a typical monopoly, revenue-maximizing as consumers and other players have zero option of other service supplier/s.

20170222be0f6Brownouts and expensive electricity, these are ironic events in our modern world. We should have stable and cheap electricity, no brownouts even for one minute except after heavy storms and typhoons that knock down electrical posts and power lines.

Government should step back in some heavy regulations like forcing intermittent solar-wind into the grid which can discourage some developers who can build stable and cheaper power like coal and natgas plants. And giving high price guaranty for 20 years to renewables like wind-solar is wrong and punishing the consumers. Technology changes very fast, the costs of solar and wind equipment are falling fast, so why lock the high price for 20 years? This is wrong.

Europe’s rising electricity prices as more wind and solar are added into the grid

More wind and solar plants, more expensive electricity. This is shown in Europe (this graph), shown in the PH. Feed in tariff (FIT) rates will rise from 4 centavos/kWh in 2015, 12.40 centavos in 2016, to 23-25 centavos/kWh this year.



Another data from Euan Mearns. Left chart is for industrial customers, right chart for household/residential customers.



A friend commented that “We should treat the subsidies as state support to explore alternative energy sources.”

It is not “state support” but “consumers support”. The state, the DOE or Malacanang or Congress have no money of their own. It is ultimately the consumers who pay for more expensive electricity, including those who (a) do not support more subsidies to REs in Luzon-Visayas, and (b) consumers in Mindanao who are not even members/part of WESM because Mindanao grid is not yet connected to Luzon-Visayas grids.

Imagine if only Luzon-Visayas consumers pay for FIT here, the price would have been about 18 centavos/kWh last year and could be 28 centavos/kWh this year. Remember also that these are just “intro prices”, first 3 years of FIT implementation with 17 more years for existing RE plants and with with RE plants added to the grid plus FIT price escalation, expect 30, 50 centavos/kWh or more in the coming years, FIT alone. Eh current WESM prices are only about P2.80/kWh, why do we pay P9+, P10+/kWh for wind and solar? Fluctuating pa every minute, every second.

Look at Europe again, the charts above. They have the longest system of subsidies for renewables, perhaps for the past 20 or 30 years. RE prices coming down? No, the opposite happens, (a) prices keep rising, and (b) grid instability rising, they are talking of blackouts soon in UK, Germany, Denmark, etc. because of more wind and solar added to the grid.

Meanwhile, more news reports about RE in Europe.

(1) “The cost of the botched renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme to the Northern Ireland taxpayer will be £490m.”

(2) “The way the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme was set up in Northern Ireland meant the subsidies offered were greater than the cost of the fuel.[The scheme was run by offering £1.40 for every £1 spent on heating.]”

Many “more RE to save the planet” advocates say that REs like wind and solar are attaining “grid parity” and getting cheaper, more competitive. If this is true, subsidies can be cut or removed but when subsidies are cut, those REs shrink. No subsidies, cheaper electricity for consumers mean these REs will die. Case of UK.

(3) “The U.K.’s renewable and low-carbon energy sector shrank by 8.7 percent last year, partly because of cuts to subsidies. The sector, from wind farms to electric vehicles, turned over 42.2 billion pounds ($52.5 billion) in 2015, provisional figures by the Office for National Statistics showed on Friday. That’s lower than the 46.2 billion pound recorded in 2014.”

Energy rationing, like food rationing, toilet paper rationing in socialist economies. May soon happen in industrial and former imperial power UK. And the “planet saviours” will jump with joy?

(4) “The British Infrastructure Group, led by former Conservative minister Grant Shapps, warned lights could go out across the country next winter because there is not enough spare capacity in the system to cope with higher demand. There is just 0.1 per cent spare electricity in the current system, a dangerously small amount of headroom in case of emergencies over the winter months, the report warned.”


Germany’s RE on a wild ride

I am reposting two articles from NTZ below.

(1) ‘Manager Magazin’ Reports How Renewable Electricity Is TakingGermany On A Wild Ride28 December 2016

It’s the paradox of the German Energiewende (transition to green energy): power exchange market prices are lower than ever before, yet consumers are paying the highest prices ever – with no stop in the increases in sight. Moreover, the more green electricity that is fed into the grid, the more coal that gets burned…

Today German Manager Magazin here brings us up to date on the country’s “greening” power grid — taking a look at the control center of grid operating company Tennet. Manager Magazin calls it the heart of the German Energiewende. Here a team of engineers decide how much gets fed into the various grids and which windparks are allowed to feed in and which aren’t.

Today the task has become a challenging balancing act. According to Manager Magazin, facility manager Volker Weinreich says “we have to intervene more often than ever to keep the power grid stable. We are getting closer and closer to the limit.”

The reason for the grid instability: the growing amount of erratic renewable energy being fed in, foremost wind and sun. Manager Magazin writes that there are always four workers monitoring the frequency at the Tennet control center, just outside Hannover, making sure that it stays near 50 Hz. Too much instability would mean a the “worst imaginable disaster: grid collapse and blackout“.

Manager Magazin reports Germany now has a huge oversupply of power flooding into the grid and thus causing prices on the electricity exchanges to plummet to levels never seen before. Yet, renewable electricity producers are guaranteed, in most cases over a period of 20 years, exorbitant high prices for their energy. This means power companies have to purchase at a high price, yet can get only very little for it on the exchange markets.

The German business magazine then writes that once again consumers will be getting the serious shaft, as the feed-in subsidy consumers are forced to pay will climb another 0.53 cents-euro in 2017, bringing the total feed in tariff for power consumers to 6.88 cents-euro for every kilowatt hour they consume.

Bavaria faces Industrial power blackout

Another huge problem is that by 2022 Germany will be shutting down the remaining nuclear power plants, a source that much of Germany’s industrial south relies on. In the meantime, the necessary transmission lines to transport wind power from the North Sea to the south are not getting built due to protests and permitting bottlenecks. This puts Bavaria’s heavy industry at risk. manager writes that the transmission lines are not expected to be completed by 2025!

In Part 3 of its report, manager Magazin reports that operating a power grid has become more complex and costly, due to the renewable power, and that the Energiewende has turned into “ecological foolishness“.  Weinreich describes how on stormy days wind parks are forced to shut down to keep the grid from frying. And the more wind turbines that come online, the more often wind parks need to be shut down. This makes them even more inefficient…

Weinreich reports that the grid is so unstable that in 2015 it was necessary for Tennet to intervene some 1400 times. In the old conventional power days, it used to be only “a few times a year“.

In Part 4, Manager Magazin reports that all the intervention and shutdowns of runaway wind parks are “costing billions” for the consumers. Alone in 2017 Tennet says grid operating fees will rise 80%, translating to 30 euros more burden each year for each household. The money of course ends up flowing from poor consumers and into the pockets of wealthy solar and wind park operators and investors.

(2) Analysis: Adding More Solar, Wind Power IncreasesDependence On Fossil Fuels, ‘Doubles’ CO2 Emissions24 November 2016

A 2011 decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022  has meant that renewables like wind and solar power are expected to swiftly take the place of nuclear energy on the German power grid.  The portion of Germany’s power generation from wind and solar (renewables) has indeed risen dramatically in the last 10 years:

And despite the steep, expensive rise in power generated by renewables since about 2000, Germany still obtained about 44% of its power from coal as of 2014, which is a higher share than in the United States (33% as of 2015)…

“As more solar and wind generators come online, … the demand will rise for more backup power from fossil fuel plants.”

The full article, entitled “Rise in renewable energy will require more use of fossil fuels”  also points out that wind turbines often produce a tiny fraction (1 percent?) of their claimed potential, meaning the gap must be filled by fossil fuels:

Wind provided just 33 megawatts of power statewide in the midafternoon, less than 1% of the potential from wind farms capable of producing 4,000 megawatts of electricity….

wind and solar energy must be backed up by other sources, typically gas-fired generators. As more solar and wind energy generators come online, fulfilling a legal mandate to produce one-third of California’s electricity by 2020, the demand will rise for more backup power from fossil fuel plants. 

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.


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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.

The PH solar confederation, electric coops and Meralco

From the DOE website, some group photos showing some of the major players in the PH energy sector. Below, one solar group, the Confederation of Solar Developers of the PH, Inc. (CSDP).


From left: DOE Chief-of-Staff Jesus Cristino Posadas, Engr. Arwin Ardon, Ret. Admiral Reuben Lista, Central Tarlac Biopower Inc. President Don Mario Dia, Equis Manager Craig Marsh, NV-VOGT Phils. President Vivek Chaudhri, North Negros BioPower, Inc. President Arthur N. Aguilar, Reynaldo Casas CSDP President, Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. Senior Vice President Juan Antonio Bernad, Carlos Aboitiz of Aboitiz Power, Solar Philippines President Leandro Leviste , SolarPacific Energy Corp. Senior Business Development Officer Dyna Enad, DOE Spokesperson & NASECORE President Pete Ilagan.

There is another solar lobby, the Philippine Solar Power Alliance  (PSPA) headed by Ms. Tetchie Capellan. Meanwhile,…


From the  DOE website,

Cusi asked both agencies to “go down to the cooperatives” to resolve the issues raised by electric cooperatives namely PHILRECA, QUEZELCO and AMRECO, among others.

 Among the issues raised by the electric cooperatives were ensuring the right of way for electric projects, tax reforms, non-privatization of Agus and Pulangui complexes in Mindanao, the interconnection of SPUG areas to the main grid and the putting up of a one-stop shop and fast lane for the processing of permits and licenses for energy projects.

On the DOE-Meralco partnership in providing electricity connection to relocated informal settlers.


When “free electricity connection” was reported in local media, I asked Joe Zaldariaga what it means — only the one-time cost of electricity connection plus meter readers are free, or also the monthly electricity bill of the informal settlers. Joe said that only the former is free. The latter, people still have to  pay their monthly electricity bill. This is low anyway because of  the  “lifeline subsidy” for consumers of only 100 kWh a month or less.

Meanwhile, I am curious why the electric  coops would oppose the privatization of hydro power plants in Mindanao? This is long overdue as EPIRA was enacted in 2001 or 15 years ago. Besides, only private players operating in a competitive environment would have enough incentives to really improve the electricity output of those hydro plants, especially when WESM in Mindanao would start operating.

FIT-eligible solar plants in the Philippines

The Department of Energy (DoE) has finally published the list of solar power plants that are given the feed in tariff (FIT) and guaranteed price for 20 years. Seven will get the original FIT rate of P9.68/kWh for the first 50 MW, 17 others, the 2nd batch, will get a lower rate of P8.69/kWh for the next 450 MW, total of 500 MW as cap for solar FIT-entitled installation.

Here’s the news report today in BWorld,  Solar projectseligible for FiT named:

The 24 solar projects that were endorsed to receive the guaranteed feed-in-tariff (FiT) rate for 20 years were developed by 20 companies, which in all have installed 525.95 megawatts (MW) or 25.95 MW more than the department’s target of 500 MW….

Sought for comment, Ma. Theresa C. Capellan, founder of the Philippine Solar Power Alliance (PSPA), said her group of 40 developers was urging the government “to be transparent and forthright in disclosing the parameters for FiT eligibility.”

“Are these the only companies eligible to the FiT 2? Those companies not included deserve some explanation as they invested billions of pesos in providing capacity to the national grid,” she said.

(DOE Sec.) Ms. Monsada previously said that the 500-MW installation target was exceeded by around 300 MW. She said she would leave it to the next administration as to how it would resolve the rate for those that failed to make it to the DoE list.

The department originally set a target of 50 MW with a guaranteed FiT rate of P9.68 per kWh, but the allocation was revised in April 30, 2014 to 500 MW, with the Energy Regulatory Commission lowering the rate on March 15, 2015 to P8.69 per kWh, but only until March 15, 2016…. 

For other renewable energy technology, wind has also exceeded the first installation target of 200 MW by 49.9 MW with an approved FiT rate of P8.53 per kWh. The second 200 MW target with a FiT rate of P7.40 per kWh was not fully subscribed as only 144 MW was taken up by developers.

For hydroelectric power projects, only 26.6 MW of the 250-MW target was taken up by developers. Appetite for biomass was also low at 101.451 MW or less than half of the 250-MW allocation.

In all, of the DoE’s 1,400-MW allocation for FiT-eligible renewable energy projects, a total of 1,047.9 MW was taken up by generation companies.

The solar lobby headed by Ms. Capellan originally lobbied that the FIT-entitled solar allocation be raised from the current 500 MW to 2,000 MW, or another 1,500 MW of solar farms to be given guaranteed price for 20 years. This old question will trail the renewables lobby: If solar, wind, etc. are indeed getting cheaper, then there should be no need for more subsidies and guaranteed price for 20 years (similar to guaranteed dictatorship ala Marcos), so why do they insist over and over to have more and continuing subsidies?

They have capitalized on climate alarmism and hope that electricity consumers will embrace more expensive electricity to “save the planet” when in reality, many solar developers jump into the sector mainly to “save their pockets.”

Not blaming solar developers in particular, but the climate alarmism and renewables cronyism that is institutionalized and legalized under RA 9513.