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Solar power won’t end Mindanao’s energy crisis

/ 07:07 PM April 14, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—The clamor for a quick installation of solar projects in Mindanao is not the solution to the power crisis on the island as it will only worsen the burden on consumers, a group of prominent economists said.

The Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) warned the government against heeding  calls for solar projects as a way out of the power blackouts in Mindanao, noting that certain vested interests were being pushed “in the guise of being environmental activists.”

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“Together with their loud demand for solar projects, which are supposed to be environmentally friendly, is an insistence by vested interests to immediately implement a feed-in-tariff for solar projects,” the FEF said in a press statement on Saturday.

“Because power coming from solar projects is very expensive, solar investors are asking that all power consumers subsidize them through the feed-in-tariff, a universal surcharge on consumers to pay for the difference between the solar cost of energy and the average cost, estimated to be at least 12 centavos per kilowatt hour,” the FEF said.

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So instead of alleviating the power situation in Mindanao by making available cheaper sources of energy, solar projects will actually add to the burden of consumers, the FEF said. The economists added that this additional burden would be shouldered by consumers for a long time even if the cost of producing electricity from solar power comes down because under their petition with the Energy Regulatory Commission, such feed-in-tariff is locked in at that rate for the next 20 years.

“The vested interests masquerading as environmental activists want to scare the Filipino people into embracing fast obsolescing technology in order to guarantee their profits for the next 20 years,” FEF said.

FEF is chaired by former Economic Planning Secretary Felipe Medalla while its president is Calixto Chikiamko. The group also includes Romeo Bernardo, Ernest Leung, Raul Fabella, Alexander Magno, Gary Olivar, Simon Paterno, Rafael Perpetuo Lotilla, Gloria Tan-Climaco and Francis Varela. The group’s advisers are former Prime Minister Cesar Virata and former finance secretaries Roberto de Ocampo and Ramon del Rosario.

“Renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar, cannot solve the power crisis in Mindanao because of their intermittent and unreliable nature,” the FEF said.

Solar cannot produce electricity at night or during cloudy days, the FEF said, noting that solar capacity produces electricity only less than a fifth of the time.

“Solar cannot even be a peaking power facility because in rural Mindanao, peak loads are at night, when the solar facilities produce no electricity,” the FEF said.

“The Department of Energy would therefore be wise not to be stampeded into approving solar as an expensive solution to the Mindanao power crisis,” it said.

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TAGS: Business, Electricity, Energy, Mindanao power crisis, Solar power
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