Solar Philippines eyes 5,000 MW plan

Louise Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Solar Philippines has submitted a 5,000-megawatt solar plan to replace all planned coal plants with solar-battery farms to reduce consumer rates by up to 30 percent.

The company said it has submitted to the country’s electric utility players the plan which includes details on the locations of the solar farms, integration of batteries for grid reliability, and the cost of batteries and panels from the now operational Solar Philippines factory in Batangas.

“With our 5,000 MW solar plan, and our first 24/7 solar-battery projects to be completed this year, we see no scenario where most planned coal projects will push through,” Solar Philippines president Leandro Leviste said.

“Solar with batteries is now the least cost power in the Philippines, and anything else will result in higher rates to consumers. We encourage the local power industry to consider this before investing billions into new coal, and hopefully they will see that the future is already here,” he said.

The company said solar can save local consumers P100 billion annually as it is 30 percent cheaper than coal.

“Lower cost power is badly needed in the Philippines, which has one of the world’s highest electricity rates. Yet the Philippines is one of the only countries where plans for new coal plants are still pushing through, for now, because of the perception solar is expensive,” Leviste said.

“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,” he said.

Furthermore, Leviste is banking on the Retail Competition Open Access (RCOA) where signed coal contracts will become irrelevant once all consumers will be able to directly choose their power suppliers.

Upon RCOA’s full implementation, coal plants will cease operating if renewables are cheaper, resulting in billions of dollars in losses as already seen in other markets.

Globally, solar averages P3 per kilowatt-hour, and even reaching P1 per kwh in some markets, prompting some countries to cancel their prospective coal projects.

For instance, the Chinese government canceled 120 gigawatt in planned coal plants, including 54 GW already under construction, while completing 34 GW of solar last year.

India also canceled nearly 20 GW in coal plants, shut down 37 coal mines, and is targeting 100 GW of solar by 2022.

“It’s not easy changing the way we’ve generated power for the last 100 years. But, I’m optimistic that our country’s electric utilities and the public have seen enough of what’s happening globally to conclude that the time of low-cost solar has arrived, and the era of fossil fuel is near its end,” Leviste said.

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