Research says solar energy now the cheapest energy source

Solar power is becoming the world’s cheapest form of new electricity generation, says an international group of renewable energy and financial experts.

 A recent report from the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), a team of experts in cross-sectors and cross-geography trends spread across six continents, shows that solar now outranks wind as the cheapest form of renewable energy, and is outperforming coal and gas as well.

 The report showed that solar energy prices in China, India, Brazil and 55 other emerging market economies have dropped to about one third of its price in 2010. This is owed largely to China’s massive deployment of solar, and the assistance it had provided to other countries financing their own solar projects.

 In light of this development, members of civil society and renewable energy advocates reiterated their push for the Duterte administration to review and adjust its energy trajectory, which relies heavily on coal for the generation of electricity.

 “The government can no longer hide under the guise of development in its support for coal,” said Gerry Arances, Head Convenor for the Center for Energy, Ecology and Development (CEED). “This latest report from the renewable energy sector confirms that not only does solar energy provide cleaner energy, but more sustainable and cheaper electricity for all.”

 “Aside from cheaper electricity, solar energy that is gathered and distributed through community-managed ‘mini-grids’ can also solve the problem of energy’s costliness and riskiness in the countryside,” according to Arances. “Increased government support for solar energy would also enable communities in far-flung areas to finally be electrified, something that coal, which relies heavily on large mega-grids for distribution, has failed to do,” he added.

Dirty, deadly and costly: the true price of coal
CEED has been vocal in highlighting the increasing economic cost of coal, as it is projected by economic experts as stranded assets, meaning that Filipinos will end up paying more for electricity generated from coal power plants in the next 25 years in their electric bills, as the technology is becoming more and more obsolete.

“Despite this, the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Philippine Energy Plan (PEP), leads us to relying on more coal for the next 15 years, instead of transitioning away from it,” Arances said. According to the PEP, coal is set to have a big share in the country’s primary energy supply even under a low-carbon scenario, with coal still having a growth rate of 4.8 percent, giving it a 25.2 percent average share in the primary energy supply,” Arances stated.

Throughout the year, various sectors have expressed dismay over the Duterte administration’s policy on energy, which has welcomed the inauguration of more coal-fired power plant projects (CFPPs) in the Philippines, including those attended by the President himself like the 405-megawatt CFPP in Villanueva, Misamis Oriental last September and 135-megawatt CFPP in Concepcion, Iloilo.

 “The Duterte administration has so far failed in distinguishing itself from Aquino in the issue of energy,” said Sanlakas Secretary General Atty. Aaron Pedrosa. “For many years, administrations have continually undermined and even mocked the capacity of renewable energy to replace dirty energy from coal as our primary source of energy in spite of the adverse effects of coal to the health and livelihood of communities affected by coal mining and coal use,” he continued.

Pedrosa cited the experience of mining-affected communities in Semirara, Antique, whose ecology and livelihoods were destroyed along with the destruction of the environment. He also pointed out that coal’s dirtiness and deadliness is also manifested in the particulate matter released in the air by coal-fired power plants and the various toxic chemicals it releases in the water.

“A study by the Harvard University on the emissions of toxins and carcinogenic compounds from coal plants confirms the correlation of local morbidity and mortality in Naga, Cebu, where cancer and URTI are higher than national averages,” Pedrosa stated. “Despite this, 69 more coal power plants are set to add to the 41 existing coal power plants in the Philippines,” he continued.

Digong urged to stop ‘coal addiction’, put energy policy on rehab
“The unreasonable and unfounded dependence of our country’s energy policy on coal can only be described as an addiction,” said Atty. Pedrosa. “Coal addiction must stop. Thus, we urge Duterte to immediately cancel the permits of new coal power plants and review the country’s overall energy policy,” Pedrosa concluded.

Arances, on the other hand, pointed out that scrutiny must also be exercised on the rules and regulations implementing the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 in order to maximize the country’s250, 000 MW renewable energy potential. “In more ways than one, policies increasing the share of renewable in the energy and power mix must be rehabilitated,” he said.

 “At present, the RE Law as implemented by the DOE has only put additional burden on those who would install solar panels in their home through double-charging in its false net-metering policy, and has kept communities from taking initiative in setting up their own democratically-managed RE systems,” Arances said. “We invite the President to consider the facts and the people’s experience to see that the age of coal has ended and the sun is rising on the age of renewable energy,” he concluded.