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Saturday, November 25, 2017

5,000-MW Solar PH rollout plan to challenge energy mix

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By Myrna M. Velasco

The 5,000-megawatt rollout plan of Solar Philippines is out to challenge the prevailing energy mix of the country, with lower cost proposition and battery storage back-up being succor to the offers lodged to distribution utilities.

“Solar Philippines has submitted to the country’s electric utilities a plan to lower consumer rates by 30-percent, by replacing all planned coal plants with solar battery farms,” company president Leandro L. Leviste has noted in a press statement.

He qualified that the offers were made “to all of the country’s largest off-takers,” albeit he asked that the identities of the power utilities be kept under wraps for now, pending ongoing discussions with them.

Coal is currently the dominant fuel for baseload power capacity in the country, but Leviste indicated for future projects, there is already a big potential for such to be eclipsed by solar.

“We see it as essential to bring ‘least cost power’ to all Filipinos; and to inform coal companies of the latest solar prices because it would be unfortunate for coal to push through, only to become stranded assets like in China and India,” he stressed.

Leviste emphasized “the Philippines is one of the only countries where plans for new coal plants are still pushing through for now because of the perception that solar is expensive,” qualifying that “we can’t fault coal companies or policymakers for not believing in solar, it’s the solar industry’s fault for not having shown that it can be cheaper and more reliable than coal.”

On their planned solar farm installations, the company noted that on blueprint are mostly utility-scale deployments.

But Leviste said “if the utilities are not able or willing to accept least cost solar power, we will increasingly divert attention to distributed generation, with potential for thousands of megawatts to get off-the-grid.”

He said that off-grid installations can even be done at a 100-percent scale, because with its significantly lower cost, this will already spare Filipino consumers of the universal charge on missionary electrification (UCME), a subsidy that they burden in their monthly electricity bills. Globally, the cost of solar has already been falling to the level of P3.00 per kilowatt hour equivalent.

“Off-grid market should be replaced with solar as soon as possible, where solar can be up to half the cost, so consumers can save the entire UCME rate,” the Solar Philippines chief executive has opined.

Leviste added “we believe this is the lowest commercial rate of any technology…we look forward to help lower prices, provided utilities act in accordance with their least cost mandate under EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act); or allow us to supply consumers directly trough RCOA (retail competition and open access) and distributed generation.”

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