Rooftop solar cheaper than coal, says Philippines’ energy minister

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The Philippines’ secretary of energy, Carlos Jericho Petilla said 5 September that rooftop solar is cheaper than coal in the island state.

The country relies on importing most of its energy from expensive fossil fuels, subject to price fluctuations. Electricity from a coal plant cost up to PHP5.50 per kWh (US$0.13) plus PHP6.50 (US$0.15) for distribution and transmission, totalling PHP12.00 (US$0.28). Whereas, rooftop solar costs PHP9.00 per kWh (US$0.21) for generation. There are no costs for distribution or transmission, said Petilla.

“This already saves you up to PHP3 per kWh (US$0.07),” Petilla said.

The use of cheaper solar energy would assist the country in increasing its energy security.

Petilla said the Philippines is 90% dependent on importing fossil fuels, and was exposed to volatile prices.

The Philippines currently has 30% renewables generation, which if kept, will provide a secure energy source “even if oil prices go up or if there is a shortage in supply in the international market”, Petilla said.

“We can depend on it for energy security even if there are political issues such as war in other countries.”

The remarks were spurred from recent armed conflict in Indonesia and Iraq.

Petilla added that the benefits of using renewables outweighed any up front investment costs. “The equipment only entails one-time cost, not repeated costs. Also, private citizens can actually benefit more for own-use of renewable energy.”

In the long term, Petilla said the Department of Energy (DoE) hopes to develop systems for renewables to compete “toe-to-toe with traditional energy resources and eventually lower the cost of electricity”.

Petilla added that renewables are needed “for environmental reasons. Since it is clean energy, harnessing renewable energy can cushion the effects of climate change”. As an island state the Philippines is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The Philippines currently has a solar tariff for 50MW, of which 22MW has already been approved for the SaCaSol solar power plant. In May the DoE proposed raising its feed-in-tariff cap tenfold.

And last week, German developer juwi announced it is to build a diesel-replacement project in the Philippines, a 6.25MW PV plant on the island of Mindanao.  

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