On mandatory solar roof in California

I saw these news few weeks ago:

California heads toward requiring solar panels on all new houses
By ANDREW KHOURI  MAY 08, 2018 | 4:55 PM

California to force new home owners to buy solar panels
Anthony Watts / May 9, 2018

Effects of Mandating PV Rooftop Solar…
By Donn Dears, May 22, 2018

ca solar What political socialism cannot achieve in America or some states in terms of more command and control, ecological socialism can. Bonker, a proposal that ALL new houses in California must have solar roof, that means all new houses must cut and kill all nearby tall trees. Because solar hates shades — from clouds, rains and tall trees. Shades automatically reduce the efficiency of solar.

Most environmentalists say, “Plant trees to save the planet.” Solar developers and advocates say, “Remove/kill all nearby trees to save the planet.”

Green, trees — people can see birds, butterflies, squirrels, etc hopping/flying from branch to branch, or tree to tree. Solar has little or zero tolerance for tall trees with tall, wide shades. Solar is fake “green.”

To get energy efficient solar, one must prune, cut if not kill all nearby tall trees. Solar in desert may be understandable but in this proposed CA new law, solar roof for ALL new houses will be mandatory. All the fakes and hypocrisy of the “greenies” or watermelon (green outside, red inside) and ecological socialist movement.


Avoiding brownouts due to gensets, not solar battery

This story contains half-truths and hence, can be considered as fake news.


Five reasons why:

(1) “Leviste to bring cheaper, more reliable power to areas poorly served by utilities”

–> Solar + battery will never be cheap in the short-term. Long term perhaps. I think Leviste’s current cost of solar + battery is at least P5.90/kWh (higher than P4/kWh for coal, natgas, others) and it cannot produce electricity 24 hours straight especially when it is cloudy and raining for many hours during daytime.

(2) “project utilising 2MW of PV panels… 2MWh of Tesla’s Powerpack battery… and 2MW of diesel backup.”

–> Imagine that?  solar PV + Tesla battery + diesel genset, that cannot be cheap. With higher diesel prices because of TRAIN, gensets would cost at least P10-15/kWh. They will need the genset to run every night, 365 nights a year because there are days and weeks where the Sun doesn’t shine (monsoon season, 1-2 weeks, sometimes 3 weeks, of rains and thick clouds non-stop).

(3) “supply reliable power 24 hours a day, over the entire year, at 50% less than the full cost of the local electric supply”

–> Partly true because islands that run on power barges and huge gensets and hence, run on 100% oil really have high electricity cost, between P10-25/kWh depending on the remoteness of the island. But they are not mentioning this comparison.

(4) “This includes a 5,000MW proposal to replace all planned coal plants with solar-plus-storage.”

–> Outright disinformation and dishonesty. To have 1MW of installed solar PV will need about 1.2 to 1.5 hectare of land. So if one targets 5,000 MW installed solar, one will need 6,000 to 7,500 hectares of land, zero crops, zero tree because solar hates shade from any tree. And with only about 18% capacity factor (36% day time, zero at night), a 5,000 MW solar plant can actually produce only 900 MW on average, not 5,000 MW.

(5) “Mindoro, while particularly badly affected, is by far the only part of the Philippines where brownouts impair productivity and quality of life.”

–> Wrong. Many islands and provinces still have regular “Earth Hours” until now. Palawan, Masbate, Romblon, Marinduque, etc.

Mindoro island, composed of two provinces Mindoro Or. and Occ. is growing very fast because of the RORO system where hundreds (or thousand plus?) of cars, motorcycles, buses and trucks traverse daily from Manila/Batangas to Panay island (4 provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Iloilo) and vice versa. A number of big tourism areas like Puerto Galera, Abra de Ilog. Mindoro does not have its own power plant. It is time that it must have its own, at least a medium-size 100 MW coal or hydro plant.

A more appropriate title would be “No more brownouts! Philippines town hails arrival of diesel genset.”

A genset will give electricity 24/7 even if the Sun does not shine for weeks due to monsoon rains and daily thick clouds. Just put diesel continuously and have regular maintenance. The cost though will be 3x to 5x or more than that of a coal plant or hydro plant. Mindoro has lots of rivers because the island has plenty of big and tall mountains. Big and small hydro, run-of-river hydro should be feasible in some areas.

Solar insecurity, energy stability and affordability

* This is my column in BusinessWorld on February 26, 2018.


“When PV Solar rely on up to 67% of revenues from subsidies, the state becomes a counter-party that is critical to sustaining the firm’s financial viability. Vagaries of politics imply constantly changing priorities, making for a fickle advocate.”

— Ricardo Barcelona,

author of Energy Investment: An Adaptive Approach to Profiting from Uncertainties (2017).

This is a lesson and reality that will be hard to appreciate for solar energy advocates and developers, that without politics, without forcing and coercing energy consumers to subsidize, directly or indirectly, solar, wind, and other renewables, their advocacy is a losing proposition.

Last Thursday, Feb. 22, I attended the Energy Policy Development Program (EPDP) lecture at the UP School of Economics (UPSE), my alma mater. The speaker was Mr. Leandro Leviste, president of Solar Philippines and his presentation was “Cheap Electricity for a First World Philippines: The 24/7 Solar-Storage Revolution.”

Mr. Leviste boldly declared in his presentation that “Solar is now the least cost for all peaking, mid-merit and baseload requirements, and will thus comprise the vast majority of additional power generation capacity from hereon in the Philippines.”

This is simply not true. If solar is indeed “least cost,” solar developers should have stopped asking for rising feed-in-tariff (FiT) or guaranteed high price for 20 years under the Renewable Energy (RE) law of 2008.

FIT rates for solar batch 1 (2015 entrants) were P9.68/kWh in 2015, P9.91 in 2016 and P10.26 in 2017. For solar batch 2 (2016 entrants), P8.69/kWh in 2016 and P8.89 in 2017. Solar and wind developers are feasting on billions of pesos of additional, expensive electricity slam-dunked on hapless consumers on top of the 11-12 different charges in their monthly electricity bill.

During the open forum, I asked Mr. Leviste two questions:

(1) Will you support the abolition of RE law of 2008 since your presentation shows plenty of improvements and cost reduction for solar, meaning they can survive without FiT, RPS, other subsidies and mandates?

(2) You advocate large-scale solar development in the Philippines, therefore you advocate large-scale deforestation of the country? You showed a big picture of your solar farm in Batangas, zero tree there, anti-green. Solar hates shades – from clouds and trees.

His response to #1 was Yes, we can abolish the RE law but we should also abolish the EPIRA law of 2001, the pass-through cost provisions. To question #2, he said that there are trees outside the solar farm and there are moves to plant crops under the solar panels.

Meaning his answer to #1 is No. On #2, precisely that trees are allowed only outside the solar farm because solar hates shades from trees. While many environmentalists including Sen. Loren Legarda repeatedly say “Plant trees to save the planet,” solar developers like Leandro Leviste are implicitly saying “remove and kill all trees (in solar farms) to save the planet.” The irony of green environmentalism.

The call for “green, environmentally-sustainable energy” is repeatedly echoed in the Philippines and other countries. And many of these advocates are unaware that in the annual report, “World Energy Trilemma Index” by the World Energy Council (WEC), the Philippines is #1 out of 125 countries for several years now in environmental sustainability.

WEC is a UN-accredited global energy body composed of 3,000+ organizations from 90+ countries (governments, private and state corporations, academe, etc) NGOs, other energy stakeholders). The Trilemma index is composed of three factors, briefly defined as:

Energy security: effective energy supply from domestic and external sources, reliability of 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 energy efficiencies and development of energy supply from renewable and other low-carbon sources (see table).


(The indicators represent economies as follows, from left to right: Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and India)

The Philippines is #1 out of 125 countries covered in Environmental Sustainability. There is high reliance on conventional renewables like big hydro and geothermal, plus newly added variable renewables. There is no need to aspire for rank #0.5 worldwide

Ranking 95th, we are low in energy equity because of our expensive electricity, which is 3rd highest in Asia, next to Japan and Hong Kong.

We place 63rd in energy security — in the middle — and we still need to add big conventional plants like coal to give us 24/7 stable, dispatchable energy to meet demand.

To conclude, these words from Ric Barcelona resonate:


“When subsidies are set as the costs differences, the ‘correct’ level is indeterminate. As power prices increase, renewables need lesser subsidies but nevertheless continue to collect. When this happens, consumers would coax regulators to claw back the subsidies because renewables are raking it in at consumers’ expense.”

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.

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.

bjorn L

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.

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.

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.

mer gen
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.

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.

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 dumagueteinfo.com.

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.