Experts push cost-impact analysis of RE

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Power developers should look beyond the upfront cost of putting up power plants to meet global emissions reductions commitments and promote  health and environment benefits, top renewable energy proponents said.

But to be able to do that, the Philippines must first come out with a study that would translate the impact and cost benefits of renewable energy (RE) to the health and environment sectors, Harvard University professor Jonathan Buonocore said.

There has been a strong push for more renewable power developments in the country amid the global push to mitigate climate change, National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) vice chairman Ernesto Pantangco said in a briefing late Thursday.

“Our concern is climate change, since the Philippines is the fifth most affected, therefore its very important for us to address this issue,” he said.

“If we try to make our commitment of 70 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2020, or have at least 35 percent of renewables (in the energy mix) by 2030, we need to encourage investments in RE,” he added.

While RE development has gained ground in the past few years, a number of power developers are still pouring investments into traditional forms of power generation, like coal generating power plants, because these facilities have lower construction and generation costs.

RE projects, on the other hand, require more investments and have higher generation costs.

In the next five years, 70 percent of over 5,000 megawatts of incoming generating capacity would come from coal.

To be able to meet the 35 percent RE in the energy mix, one-third of these coal plants being built should be RE technologies, said Pantangco, who is also the executive vice president of Lopez-led Energy Development Corp. (EDC).

He added power developers should not just focus on what would be least cost to build and generate power but also look at the cost of impact on health and the environment.

“If you look at detractors of RE, they are saying it’s expensive, you need a subsidy and so on and so forth. But the issue here is we must reflect the true cost of technology in to the grid. It has only been the generation cost, but what are the additional incremental costs?” Pantango said.

“Let’s take a look at the whole scenario, the cost benefits, health benefits, reliability of supply and not just take a look at it at the cost of generation standpoint,” he added.

For the Philippines to push more RE development, a study showing the impact of RE to health and the environment must be made to lay down stringent policy framework, Buonocore said in the same event.

In the US, Buonocore led a group that made a study which quantified the health and environmental benefits of shifting to RE and energy efficiency.

The study, which simulated a series of interventions in certain locations in the US, estimated the “monetized public health and climate benefits” to range between $5.7 million to $210 million.

While the exact numbers may not translate to the Philippines, Buonocore said the idea that actions will reduce emissions  are affecting the most people.

“One of the important things we found in the research is the health benefits, they begin occurring essentially when emissions reductions happen,” he said. “One of the things that might be especially valuable in policy framework is to attach numbers to it.”

The Harvard professor has already expressed willingness to help conduct a similar study for the Philippines.

Meanwhile, Dr. Renzo Guinto of Health Care Without Harm-Asia said there are ongoing discussions with Buonocore for the possibility of using the same model used in the study to estimate health benefits to help the Philippines reap benefits of RE.

Guinto, however, pointed out a number of reports and rough estimates of the ill effects of coal plants could guide RE investments.

“These numbers are enough on knowing how will we be impacted by these energy decisions. The challenge is to qualify this,” Guinto said.



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