Tuesday, December 9, 2014

'Coal plants best choice for Thailand now' -govt

The Nation/Asia News Network 9:24 AM | Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

THAILAND — Despite public concern about their environmental impact, coal-fired power plants have been emerging as a vital force for the country’s energy security.

This fact is evident in the vision of the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, which believes that “clean-coal” technology would be a perfect solution for the country.

“Coal-fired power plants will build energy security,” said Anuchart Palakawongse na Ayudhya, Egat director of environmental projects. “With ‘clean-coal’ technology, coal will be the best energy source for the country’s power generation in the next one or two decades.”

He revealed that Egat planned to boost coal as the energy source for power generation from 14 per cent to 23 per cent by 2030.

Anuchart was speaking as an Egat team led reporters on a visit to Germany to inspect the Schwarze Pumpe power plant, which uses lignite, the Power Plant of Mainova, which relies on coal, and the Binselberg Wind Park, where electricity is generated by wind energy.

The trip offered a glimpse of how a new-generation lignite-fired power plants can be “friendly” to the environment.

Binselberg Wind Park can generate up to 9,000 megawatts of electricity a year with its two turbine sets. It “lowers” carbon dioxide emissions by 5,800 tons every year.

Egat has emphasized that while it is trying to push for the use of a coal-fired power plant in Krabi, it has not lost focus on renewable-energy promotion.

“We will continue to boost the percentage of renewable energy in power generation too. It should rise from 14 per cent now to 28 per cent by 2030,” said Wiwat Chancherngpanich, Egat’s assistant governor for power plant construction.

Like Anuchart, Wiwat believes that coal is a good choice for electricity generating, saying production costs range from 2.8 baht to 3 baht per unit.

“When using wind energy, the cost is between 5 baht and 6 baht per unit,” he pointed out. “When using solar energy, the cost ranges between 8 baht and 9 baht per unit.”

He also said that renewable energy was still not very stable as a source of power generation.

“For example, if we stick to solar energy, we must understand that we may get just four or five hours of sunlight on some days,” Wiwat said.

Egat’s plan to set up a coal-fired power plant in Krabi, however, has drawn opposition from locals and environmentalists.

They have highlighted what happened to people living near the lignite-fired Mae Moh Power Plant in Lampang. There, locals have been struggling with pollution and related health issues.

According to Anuchart, the Mae Moh plant has been improved and has reduced its sulphur dioxide emissions significantly.

He said that Egat recognized that the Mae Moh plant was old and it would be closed soon.

“As for our new projects, we should be able to do at least as well as Germany,” he said.

For example, for the planned coal-fired power plant in Krabi, he said that Egat would spend up to 800 million baht on constructing a tunnel for coal transportation along a stretch that went past a mangrove forest.

He said that the transportation system would be closed in order to prevent environmental impacts along the route. Boats used for coal transportation would stay clear of coral reefs off Phi Phi Island and Lanta Island.

Dust particles from the plant’s emissions would be 30 milligrammes per cubic meter of air, much lower than the standard 80 milligrammes per cubic meter of air.

Sulphur dioxide emissions would also be far below the standard requirement.

“Our consulting firm is in the process of gathering people’s opinions,” Anuchart said.

He said that if the 50 billion baht plant got Cabinet approval, its construction would start in 2016 and finish in 2019.

He said that the plant – which would replace an old plant at the same location – would use sub-bituminus coal, an “eco-friendly” raw material.

That plant and two plants planned for Songkhla were crucial in ensuring electricity security in the South.

“We still need coal-fired power plants,” Anuchart said.

However, the many protests mean there are now question marks over whether the Krabi and Songkhla plants will go ahead. And if they are not constructed, would Egat be able to find enough energy to meet needs

Wiwat said that if the power plants could not use coal to produce power, Egat would have to consider other options such as liquefied natural gas, which would cause the electricity-producing cost to increase by 2-3 baht.

The other option would be to buy energy from other sources such as dams in Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.

If that happened, Wiwat said the country would become dependent on other countries to meet its energy requirements. source

DOE chief vows to restore power before Christmas

Connie Fernandez, Jennifer Allegado, Joey Gabieta | Inquirer Visayas 
Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:34 AM | Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

CALBAYOG CITY, Samar—Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has given assurance that power in the three Samar provinces, Leyte and Biliran will be restored before Christmas.

Petilla told a briefing here on Monday afternoon that while he could not give an exact date when power would be back, it would be restored before Dec. 25.

“Definitely there will be power before Christmas because we don’t want you to have a dark Christmas,” said Petilla, whose political clan is from Eastern Visayas.

Petilla said that based on his meeting with the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the extent of the damage to the transmission facilities caused by typhoon “Ruby” (international name: Hagupit) could not yet be determined.

The NGCP, in a media advisory on Monday, said it would conduct an aerial survey and send foot patrols to the transmission lines supplying power to Samar and Leyte to assess the damage.

Restoration timelines will be drawn up based on the assessment.

Petilla said a team from the NGCP started the assessment only on Monday, when the weather began to improve.

In a statement, Globe Telecom said its operations team was working to restore the base station controller located in Gigoso villagee, Giporlos town, Eastern Samar.

In a separate statement, Smart Communications Inc. (Smart) and Sun Cellular (Sun) said their network services continued to operate normally in most of the areas affected by Ruby even as cellular services in the worst-hit areas of Samar and Biliran had started to normalize.

Mobile phone coverage in the Northern Samar towns of Allen-Londres, San Isidro, Rosario, Bobon, Catarman, Yakal, Mondragon, San Roque, Laoan and Pambujan were restored Sunday evening shortly after the storm passed the area. source

Power down but fuel supply still available after typhoon

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Riza T. Olchondra
1:32 AM | Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Power outages hit provinces in Bicol, the Visayas region and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon provinces), but fuel supply was disrupted less as Tropical Storm “Ruby” battered the country.

The storm also toppled electricity poles and ripped power lines.

“Ruby is far less damaging than Yolanda but power lines have been hit and we are still assessing when power can be restored,” Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said. “As for fuel availability, there is enough supply as most gas stations have resumed operations.”

Downed power lines

As of Monday afternoon, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines said downed transmission lines and facilities disrupted services in the southern part of Luzon, including those serving Quezon Electric Cooperative, Abaca fiber supplier Agro-Industrial Development Corp. and Sorsogon Electric Cooperative Inc. 1 and 2.

In the Visayas, the downed power lines were those connected to Northern Samar Electric Cooperative; Eastern Samar Electric Cooperative; Southern Leyte Electric Cooperative; Leyte Electric Cooperative 2, 3, 4 and 5; Don Orestes Romualdez Electric Cooperative; Samar Electric Cooperative 1; Biliran Electric Cooperative; Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp.; Samar Cooperatives; Specialty Pulp Manufacturing; Visayan Oil Mill; SC Global Coco Products; Capiz Electric Cooperative; Bohol Electric Cooperative 1 and 2; Iloilo Electric Cooperative 1 and 2; Philippine Mining Service Corp.; and Bohol Light Co.

Power services were also disrupted in Janopol in Bohol province and in Tacloban City and Palo and Babatngon towns in Leyte province.

Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said it was on standby for emergencies in its franchise area.

Company spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said its franchise area (Metro Manila and surrounding provinces) had normal power supply as of press time on Monday.

Meralco has advised billboard managers to roll up their structures to prevent them from damaging power lines.

Safety tips

Meralco gave safety tips on using electrical devices and appliances in case of flooding:

— Ensure the main electrical power switch or circuit breaker is off. Be sure to be dry at all times while in contact with any electrical facility.

— Unplug appliances from wall sockets. Turn off permanently connected equipment and unscrew all light bulbs, if possible.

— Remove mud and dirt from service equipment or main circuit breaker or fuse and its enclosure using rubber gloves and rubber-soled shoes.

— Make sure all electrical wires, connectors and other wiring devices are completely dry.

— When all electrical wires and accessories have dried and are clean, the wiring system of all appliances must be checked by a licensed electrician. Do not turn on flood-damaged electrical appliances. source

Monday, December 8, 2014

New power plant to boost Agusan del Sur commerce

Manila Bulletin
by Mike Crismundo
December 8, 2014

San Isidro, San Francisco, Agusan del Sur – A 5-megawatt bunker-fired power plant was inaugurated yesterday that is expected to meet the increasing demand for power of the fast-rising province of Agusan del Sur.

Provincial officials and officials of the local chamber of commerce also said the newly-built plant will address the request of various rural businesses for “more sufficient power supply to the various progressing towns in the province, particularly in the town of San Francisco where new business infrastructures are built.

“This is really a big help in our progressing province, a more and sufficient power supply,” stressed Agusan del Sur Gov. Adolph Edward G. Plaza.

Peakpower San Francisco Inc., in cooperation with the Agusan del Sur Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ASELCO), formally inaugurated the plant located at the ASELCO Main Office, San Isidro, San Francisco, this province.

The blessing and inauguration was attended by the officials of Peakpower San Francisco Inc. led by its President Mr. Roel Z. Castro and Chairman, Dr. Walter W. Brown. Also in attendance were ASELCO top management including its General Manager (GM) Emmanuel B. Galarse, President Corazon D. Cullantes and members of the Board.

Other top regional, provincial and municipal officials, including those from different line agencies and business groups and GM’s of various electric coops in Caraga region, also attended the blessing and inauguration yesterday.

The blessing was also highlighted by the presence of 1-CARE Partylist Representative, Rep. Edgardo Masongsong, who put emphasis on the significant role of the cooperative in ensuring the power stability of the province despite the power crisis the country is facing. source

Meralco generation charge seen below P5.00/kwh in Dec. by Myrna Velasco

Manila Bulletin
by Myrna Velasco
December 8, 2014

Depressed demand plus the impact of downtrend in fuel prices will pull down the generation charge of power utility Manila Electric Company (Meralco) to below P5.00 per kilowatt hour (kwh) this December billing month.

“There’s a strong likelihood that generation charge will fall below P5.00 per kwh for the first time this year,” an executive of the company has hinted. That will be from a slightly higher base of P5.11 per kwh in November billing.

meralco logo copyMeralco is expected to announce the reduction on its rates today (December 9).

Fundamentally, the generation charge account for the biggest component in the overall rates being passed on to end-users.

The scenario this year had been considerably a reversal of the anguish-ridden events of last year when the P4 to P5 per kilowatt hour (kWh) hike in Meralco’s rates in November-December then tangibly came as ‘electric shock’ to its customers.

In a separate message, Meralco assistant vice president Joe Zaldarriaga noted that the company, as of Monday (December 8) was “still waiting for the final and complete information from suppliers.”

He emphasized though that “WESM (Wholesale Electricity Spot Market) results show November load weighted average prices (LWAP) to be lower than October’s.”

Zaldarriaga said cost trends “indicate reduction in the generation cost for December compared to last month.”

With teeming supply, mainly due to lower consumption because of the cold weather, prices in the spot market had also softened in the recent reckoning of the November supply month.

Fuel prices, which are major factors in the life cycle cost of power plant operations, will also contribute to the overall deceleration in the generation charge.

It must be noted that some fuels utilized for fuel generation are indexed to global oil prices – primarily the plants running on natural gas provided by the Malampaya field. So far, prices in the world oil markets have been hitting historic lows.

Additionally, the cost of coal had also been collapsing in the past months – and such could also contribute to the overall cut-back in electricity rates. source

Palace to get extra powers on crisis eve

Business World Online
Posted on December 08, 2014 10:50:00 PM
By Melissa Luz T. Lopez, Reporter
and Claire-Ann M. C. Feliciano, Senior Reporter

MALACAÑANG will likely get the special authority it needs to deal with Luzon’s power crisis just a month ahead of the problem next year, a timetable business leaders said would still provide leeway for action though it would be cutting it close.

President Benigno S.C. Aquino III invoked the power crisis provision of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 last September after the Energy department bared a power shortage that would hit Luzon -- which contributes about 70% to national output -- from March to July 2015.

While the joint resolution was initially meant to allow government to contract additional megawatts (MW) for that period, the country’s chief executive has settled for less controversial measures like the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) that encourages firms to run their generator sets in order to reduce demand on the grid and an invigorated energy conservation drive. Noting that it takes about six months for government to lease generators, Mr. Aquino said time has run out for this option.

Sergio R. Osmeña III, who heads the Senate’s energy committee as chairman, said his chamber can approve the resolution on third and final reading by early 2015. “The Senate can approve the resolution by the end of January without causing undue delays,” Mr. Osmeña said in a text message on Friday last week.

The measure may no longer have to secure bicameral conference committee approval, provided both chambers have the same or similar versions with little difference. The Energy department will then have up to 30 days to issue the needed implementing rules and regulations (IRR), which will depend on the final form the measure will take.

Mr. Osmeña had earlier said his chamber would wait for the House of Representatives to approve the joint resolution. “We will wait for their version and study it carefully. We may either amend it or draft our own,” he said.

The House is holding plenary debates on the joint resolution, which it aims to approve before Congress takes its month-long Christmas-cum-New Year break starting Dec. 20. After that, the chamber will transmit the measure to the Senate for action.

Luzon is estimated to need additional capacity of up to 1,004 MW, including 404 MW in contingency reserve.

The resolution provides a “carrot-and-stick” scheme to encourage participation in the ILP, pushes for the fast-tracking of committed power projects, as well as energy efficiency and conservation measures.

The option to buy or lease additional generators has long been scrapped by lawmakers, estimating this would cost government at least P6 billion. Lawmakers now consider ILP as the main option. Under this scheme, private companies registered with the program that run their own generating sets will be reimbursed for fuel and operation costs, with value-added tax deemed paid and immediately refunded on paper.

Noting that the joint resolution’s IRR will be issued up to 30 days after the measure’s approval, House energy committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali of Oriental Mindoro (2nd district) said via text: “Perhaps, DoE (Department of Energy) should start drafting it now in anticipation of the joint resolution approval.”

Sought for comment, Mylene C. Capongcol, director of DoE’s Electric Power Industry Management Bureau, replied via text: “We can start drafting the IRR, but it would be hard to guess the final version of the joint resolution that will come out.”

Asked further on the Senate’s target to approve the measure by end-January, Ms. Capongcol said: “That would result in less time to prepare and do things in accordance with the joint resolution.”

“It is not the government that will be disadvantaged in case the joint resolution gets delayed,” she added.

“But it’s okay because ILP is a continuing program and I think we can still accommodate more participants.”

Latest available DoE data showed that registered ILP commitments stood at 191.47 MW as of Dec. 1, with 484.71 MW potential capacities still under negotiation.

Business leaders were cautious in their views.

“January is a bit tight, but still doable. The issue is whether the incentives are there to encourage more ILP participants,” said Gregorio S. Navarro, president of the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), via text.

Peter Wallace, governor of MAP’s energy committee, concurred, saying: “It’s tight, but not critical since much of ILP has been achieved already.”

European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines Executive Vice-President Henry J. Schumacher said: “The earlier, the better... But all preparations for ILP and active investment in energy efficiency and energy savings can already be done in the meantime.”

For John D. Forbes, senior adviser of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines: “The principal value of the resolution being passed so late is to support the ILP and energy efficiency campaign.” source

United Holdings to partner with other RE firms

Business Mirror
by Lenie Lectura - December 8, 2014

UNITED Holdings Power Corp. revealed plans to venture into wind and solar power projects via joint venture with other developers of renewable energy (RE).

“We are actively looking at other ventures in RE. We are willing to invest in existing service contracts. Either we buy them out or take in a stake but we have to conduct due diligence first,” United Holdings President Dominic Sytin said.

United Power is developing a 15-megawatt (MW) hydropower plant in Bukidnon. It has already secured the nod of the Department of Energy (DOE) on this.

In particular, United Power is interested at developing 20-MW to 30-MW wind-power projects, 40 MW to 50 MW in solar projects, and an additional 20 MW in hydropower projects. United Power’s 15-MW Upper and Lower cascading mini-hydro project will utilize the Maladugao River in Lampanusan, Kalilangan, Bukidnon. The start of construction is expected next year.

The project will generate 100 gigawatt-hours of additional energy to augment/help ease the power shortage in Mindanao by the second quarter of 2017.

Sytin earlier said the company is supporting the DOE’s Power Development Plan & Philippine Energy Plan, which aims to increase the Philippines’s self-sufficiency in energy using environment-friendly, cleaner fuels by firming up the entry of renewable-energy capacities.

“Hydropower is clean, promotes a low-carbon economy and very sustainable. With proper operations and maintenance, some hydro plants in the Philippines are still running and producing power since they were commissioned before World War II, in 1936. And, when you talk about hydropower plants, where else would you build it in Mindanao but Bukidnon, touted as the “Watershed of Mindanao,” Sytin said. source

Overhaul work at Malaya thermal plant begins

Business World Online
Posted on December 08, 2014 10:35:00 PM

SOUTH Korean firm STX Marine Service Co. Ltd. has started overhaul work at the 300-megawatt (MW) unit of Malaya thermal power plant in Rizal.

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) said it already issued the notice to proceed (NTP) to STX Marine last week.

“The NTP was already issued by PSALM on Dec. 1. The contractor has already mobilized (sic) at the site,” PSALM Vice-President Elmer A. Cadano said in a mobile phone message reply yesterday.

“Under the contract, they (STX Marine) should be able to complete the overhaul within 90 days barring any extraordinary works that may be required by the circumstances and condition of the equipment,” Mr. Cadano added.

PSALM last month awarded the contract to STX Marine after the Korean company hurdled a post-qualification evaluation.

PSALM’s board last August approved the rehabilitation of the power facility to help it run at full capacity. The overhaul, if completed on time, could help mitigate the supply problem expected in the summer months of next year.

PSALM conducted negotiated procurement for the project and requested proposals from nine contractors.

However, only three service providers -- including STX Marine -- tendered their proposals prior to submission deadline. The two others were Guangxi Hydroelectric Construction Bureau and Weir Engineering Services, Ltd.

Only STX Marine was found compliant with the eligibility and technical requirements.

The Malaya thermal plant has a 300-MW unit and a 350-MW unit. It was first rehabilitated by Korea Electric Power Corp. under a 15-year rehabilitate-operate-maintain management agreement with the government.

STX Marine is the same company that also won a one-year contract to operate and maintain (O&M) the entire 650-MW power asset located in Pililia, Rizal.

It was the lowest bidder for the contract with its P302.15-million offer, outbidding its rival SPC Power Corp.’s bid of P428.78 million.

PSALM described STX Marine as a firm that engages in the design, construction, supervision and repair of system or equipment related to energy.

The Korean firm also offers ship management, marine transportation and brokerage services, as well as ship design, construction, leasing and repair. -- Claire-Ann Marie C. Feliciano source

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Power crisis resolution seen approved by House this week

Business World Online
Posted on December 07, 2014 10:47:00 PM

THE JOINT resolution which lays out the options for government in dealing with next year’s power crisis is expected to be approved by the House of Representatives within the week, the chairman of the energy committee said.

“There are just three interpellators left, so I expect approval by Monday or Tuesday,” House energy committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali (Oriental Mindoro, 2nd district), said in a text message Friday.

Plenary discussions on the House Joint Resolution (HJR) 21 started Tuesday last week, when party-list lawmakers Bayan Muna Rep. Neri J. Colmenares, Abakada Rep. Jonathan A. Dela Cruz, Akbayan Rep. Walden F. Bello, and ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio L. Tinio questioned the validity of the energy department’s forecast of a March-to-July 2015 power shortage in Luzon.

HJR 21 names the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), the fast-tracking of committed power projects and of plants for interconnection, and energy conservation measures as the options that can be pursued by government to add to the power reserves during next year’s dry season.

The measure assumes a maximum 1,004-megawatt (MW) shortage, and factors in the need for a 600-MW required contingency reserve and a 404-MW required dispatchable reserve. This is to cover for four weeks of so-called “yellow alert,” a power supply status warning that indicates the possibility of rotating brownouts.

Last week, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III certified the measure as urgent, opening the door for both chambers of Congress to fast-track its approval.

Speaker Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. earlier said that he hopes to obtain third-reading approval at the House this month, just before the chamber takes a holiday break starting Dec. 20.

Asked about the progress of deliberations on the measure, Mr. Belmonte expressed confidence anew, saying: “We think it can be done before then.”

After House approval, the proposal will then be transmitted to the Senate for a new round of talks and subsequent approval before it is deemed to take effect.

The additional authority to be given to the President will last until July 31, 2015, the measure states. -- Melissa Luz T. Lopez source

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Riza T. Olchondra
12:11 AM | Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Regulators have released the templates for renewable energy (RE) deals, paving the way for the collection of the feed-in tariff (FIT) starting January 2015.

The renewable energy payment agreement (Repa) between the state administrator of the FIT fund and eligible RE plant operators, and the renewable energy supply agreement (Resa) between distribution utilities and RE plant operators will serve to facilitate transactions under the FIT system.

The FIT system guarantees all eligible renewable energy players an entitlement to the applicable rates for a 20-year period.

In a resolution, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said that “any Repa executed by the FIT-All fund administrator and the eligible RE plant that conforms to the template shall be deemed approved.”

Also, eligible renewable energy plants where the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market is not operational must enter into a Resa with the host distribution utility.

ERC executive director Francis Saturnino Juan said in a text message that the approval of the deal templates would enable the collection of FIT rates to be pooled in a fund, which would be used to provide incentives to pioneering RE developers through fixed rates.

The approved tariff rates are P5.90 per kilowatt-hour for run-of-river hydro; P6.63 per kWh for biomass; P8.53 per kWh for wind; and P9.68 per kWh for solar.

Juan also said that, under the Resa, the FIT-eligible RE could claim from the National Transmission Corp.—the FIT Allowance fund administrator—payment for its actual RE rate based on FIT.

The FIT Allowance, or FIT-All, is a uniform charge similar to the universal charge that is imposed on all consumers who are supplied with electricity through a distribution or transmission network. source

Citizen’s group happy with ERC

SPY BITS By Babe G. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 4, 2014 - 12:00am

A citizen-led pro-consumer group calling itself CitizenWatch lauded the Energy Regulatory Commission’s decision to deny the motion for reconsideration filed by generation companies who disputed the ERC’s order voiding the Luzon wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) for November and December last year, which it described as “excessive, exorbitant and unreasonable.”

The regulatory body said it issued the order to safeguard public interest by restoring competitive prices in the market, adding that had it not interceded, the consequences would have been onerous on the consumers who ultimately carry the burden of irrationally skyrocketing electricity rates.

According to CitizenWatch, the order was significant because aside from the fact that it indicated overpricing in the WESM, it also served as a test case in light of the looming energy crisis next year. ERC had also recently extended the imposed price cap on WESM trading in a bid to stabilize electricity prices. Saying that “the tight supply and demand situation of power in the country makes it prone to spikes in electricity prices,” the pro-consumer group reiterated its support for ERC’s move as it would redound to the benefit of the consuming public.

The President has admitted that the looming power crisis is a challenge that the national government can’t handle by itself, saying that current energy projections show Luzon facing a minimum shortage of 300 megawatts to a maximum of 1,000 megawatts next year. Some private companies have taken steps to reduce energy consumption, like the SM group that installed over 5,700 solar panels on the rooftop of its North EDSA mall in Quezon City which can generate up to 1.5 MW – enough to power the building’s 16,000 lighting fixtures, 59 escalators and 20 elevators.

In fact, more companies are responding to the call of government to help mitigate the expected tight supply problem during summer next year by running their respective generators instead of getting power from the grid during specified periods.

Meralco, the country’s biggest power distribution utility, is also embarking on a massive information campaign that would help consumers identify which appliances consume the most electricity through orange-colored power consumption tags that would supplement the yellow labels of the Department of Energy. The orange labels indicate how much electricity a certain appliance or gadget consumes – which would help costumers manage their energy consumption as they would know how much each appliance contributes to their electric bills.

Disaster-proof industry

Intellectual Property Office director general Ric Blancaflor sent us a recent study on the economic contribution of the “creative industries” to the country’s gross domestic product – a healthy 7.34 percent or equivalent to P661 billion. Using 2010 as a reference year, an update by the UN World Intellectual Property Organization also showed that over 14 percent of the country’s labor force comes from the creative industry (copyright-based) sector, and its potential to contribute even more to the economy could be further enhanced when fully supported by legislation and budgetary allocations, Blancaflor noted the industry is immune from national disasters and thrives even with meager government support.

More than a decade ago, the contribution of copyright-based industries (CBIs) to the GDP was a modest 4.82 percent, but this has grown over the years as policy and institutional reforms that protected copyright on literature, music, theater, film, media, photography, visual arts and other similar creative sectors were set in place. A 2006 baseline study revealed that CBIs significantly contributed to the economy and registered a strong potential for employment generation – thereby providing a good vehicle in attaining development objectives.

Mall trend

With the Christmas holidays now just around the corner, the pace in malls has become more frenetic than ever with throngs of people doing their last minute shopping, at times making it impossible to enjoy dinner or even a drink of coffee. Many have told us that just the thought of going through a crowded mall is enough to discourage them from going out at all.

The recently expanded Commercenter in Alabang however is offering a respite with its one-stop-shop lifestyle concept that allows people to spend quality time with the “non-complex” layout that projects a relaxing, less crowded ambience amid lush and serene surroundings. Frequent visitors to the new mall tell us the establishments have been carefully chosen to provide not only a variety of dining or entertainment options but also offer wellness and development centers from yoga to dental and eye specialty clinics, hobby shops and specialty boutiques that cater to all groups or shoppers – families, friends, kids, couples.

Among the interesting places in Commercenter is the Bridgestone one-stop tire shop and automotive services center that meet the needs of luxury sedan, SUV and sports car owners throughout the south, with the establishment meant to cater to owners in need of topnotch car repair and maintenance – from changing and aligning run-flat tires to servicing bulletproof cars. Bike enthusiasts also rave about the Ducati center which, like Bridgestone, is also a one-stop shop for everything that has to do with the motorcycle brand from a display of the latest models to upgrades and tune-ups.

Spy tidbit

Our congratulations to Philippine Star chairman Ray Espinosa who was unanimously elected to the Board of Governors of the Manila Overseas Press Club (MOPC), the country’s oldest and most prestigious press club. The MOPC elections for the 2015 board held at the Manila Golf and Country Club the other day also coincided with the club’s Christmas party. Also elected to the board were The New Standard publisher Rollie Estabillo, Radio Mindanao Network chairman Eric Canoy, Masbate Community Broadcasting president Maloli Espinosa-Supnet, Manila Bulletin columnist Hector Villanueva, Asia World’s Nelia Gonzalez, SMC’s Elpi Cuna, and yours truly.

* * *

Email: spybits08@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Basic Energy seeks SEC okay for unit’s name change

Business Mirror by Lenie Lectura - December 3, 2014

BASIC Energy Corp. has sought the green light of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to change the name of its unit Basic Ecomarket Farms Inc. to Basic Renewables Inc.

“The SEC on November 27 approved the amended Articles of Incorporation of Basic Ecomarket Farms Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Basic Energy Corp.,” it said on Wednesday.

Aside from the change in name, the unit’s primary purpose is “to engage in the business of exploration, development, utilization and production of renewable-energy resources, such as, but not limited to, solar, wind, hydropower and other forms of renewable energy, including the application and operation of systems, technologies and facilities for the generation, transmission, distribution, sale and use of electricity and fuel generated from renewable energy.”

Basic Energy holds minority stakes in service contract (SC) 47 and SC 53, located offshore and onshore Mindoro, respectively, as well as SC 41 in Sulu Sea. The company continues to look for business opportunities for the development of renewable energy, as it pursues its core business in oil and gas exploration and development. source

Efficient electricity use can forego P8-B worth of power investments

Manila Bulletin
by Myrna Velasco
December 3, 2014

By merely shifting to energy-efficient appliances or cleaning the currently-installed ones, electricity consumers would be able to help government and the private sector free up some P8.0 billion capital outlay on new power investments.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla indicated that based on the numbers they have crunched, a social action on systematic usage of electricity could spare the power system of 40 to 70 megawatts of capacity addition.

Referencing that on the rule-of-thumb cost on power investments – preferably for a baseload capacity at $2.5 million per megawatt – the resulting ‘avoided capital outlay’ will be $175 million or roughly P7.87 billion.

Petilla admitted though that energy savings as an option to pare electricity demand remains a “hard sell” to Filipino consumers – that he actually rated public consciousness on this sphere at a fledgling 1.0-percent.

Despite the Filipino public’s “lack of light-bulb moment” though, the energy chief has been aggressively targeting to raise consciousness on energy savings to a passing rate of 6.0-percent. He wants the National Energy Consciousness Month celebration launched by his department this week as a fresh starting point.

The way to that target, he admitted, would be a tough and tricky one because it generally resides in the people’s will to really conserve on their energy usage – adding it to the fact that the mechanism being pushed by government would be for it to be done on a voluntary basis.

The estimated savings on purported investments, Petilla said, would include both those in the government and private sectors – factoring in even the lack of awareness and the reluctance of some segments to become part of the process.

Petilla has emphasized that “energy conservation is not (just) reserved for owners of big factories, houses and businesses,” but everybody is obligated to chip in into such noble cause of moderating the country’s energy addiction.

He further apprised media that the Department of Energy “will be issuing further policies and mechanisms” on how it can stimulate energy conservation across societal segments.

The department laid down plans on recurring investment forums; information, education and communication campaigns (IEC) as well as public consultations. Ultimately though, it remains to be seen if the department can finally pass muster this initiative given the shortcomings and weaknesses of the programs it already implemented in the past. source

Meralco’s Power Lab to partner with appliance makers

The Manila Times
December 3, 2014 9:42 pm

Leading power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) is mulling expanding its Power Lab by partnering with appliance manufacturers to encourage energy conservation.
Meralco’s Power Lab, which is located at the utility’s head office in Ortigas, Pasig City, serves as a test bed for various consumer appliances and teaches consumers how much energy a particular appliance consumes.
Meralco spokesperson Jose Zaldarriaga said that the company is planning to expand the project early next year.
“By early next year, the intent is to expand the establishment of the Power Lab with more appliance manufacturer partners and an expanded capability,” said Zaldarriaga.
In one of its studies, Meralco’s Power Lab found that computers on standby mode can cost around P25 a month.
Meralco is also set to launch early next year power consumption tags to help consumers identify the energy consumption of an appliance.
Department of Energy (DOE) director Patrick Aquino said appliances will carry a Meralco orange tag that will supplement the yellow labels of DOE.
“It will show consumers how much energy a particular appliance consumes,” he said.
The DOE has also launched a website (www.wattmatters.org.) which estimates the share of each appliance to a consumer’s electricity bill.
The DOE has been calling for a stronger energy conservation campaign as the Luzon grid is facing a looming power shortfall next summer. Through its Energy Utilization Management Bureau (EUMB), the DOE is already implementing energy conservation measures to reduce the power demand.
In a Department Circular issued last August, the DOE enjoined both government and private offices to practice energy efficiency by putting their cooling systems to 25 degrees Celsius and using efficient lighting.
The EUMB is tasked under the circular to intensify the campaign and organize consultations with stakeholders for the effective promotion of energy efficiency and conservation.
Also, the department is speeding up the completion of committed projects through a series of site visits and updates from power companies.
Through the DOE’s initiative, existing power plants have already rescheduled their maintenance shutdowns to a later date to support the energy requirements of Luzon next summer. source

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

PH infra, energy sectors draw investor interest

Amy Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
2:54 AM | Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Hailed as the next Asian miracle, the Philippines is deemed an attractive investment destination by a Singaporean state agency particularly in the areas of infrastructure, energy and consumer products.

In its review of the Philippines, International Enterprise Singapore, which promotes the overseas growth of Singaporean companies, said there were private sector infrastructure opportunities in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors, as well as demand for utilities services, in the Philippines.

It noted that the Philippine government remained committed to pursue investments that would plug the infrastructure gap in the country.

“It (Philiplpine government) plans to ramp up public infrastructure spending from 2.8 percent to 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2016, through PPP (private public partnership) projects,” the report stated.

“While still lower than China and India, the Philippines could see the largest increase in demand for infrastructure as a percentage of GDP among the Asean countries. The government projects to spend $110 billion by 2020. This is due to an increase in urbanization and per capita income, which drives demand for infrastructure,” it further said.

The Philippines, it added, had embarked on an ambitious PPP program to tie up with the private sector for more than $17 billion worth of projects, majority of which were in Manila. It was expected that at least 15 major infrastructure projects worth more than $5.2 billion would be awarded before the end of the term of the current administration in June 2016.

IE Singapore also noted that there was significant potential for investments in the renewable energy sector, particularly wind and solar power, as well as for water projects as Metro Manila was reportedly suffering from a water deficit of about 400,000 cubic meters a day.

Singaporean firms could also look into opportunities in food, clothing and footwear retail sectors given the Philippines’ large and growing consumer market, it added.

The Philippines’ consumption expenditure accounted for about 74 percent of GDP, reportedly one of the highest in Asean. It was estimated that total consumer expenditure in the Philippines will grow by 5.4 percent yearly from 2013 to 2030, from $186 billion in 2012.

According to IE Singapore, household spending is projected to increase yearly by 10.5 percent to $322.6 billion in 2018, from $210.5 billion in 2014, while the country’s total household retail spending, estimated to be at $210.5 billion this year, is seen growing to $322.6 billion in 2018.

The agency disclosed that the clothing and footwear sectors are seen posting strong growth over the next few years, as the youthful population (between the age of 20 and 39), representing the main driver of these segments of the retail sector, grows in size.

“A growing and young population with increasing disposable income is expected to lead the growth of household spending in all retail sub-sectors in the Philippines. Hence there is great potential in the Philippine consumer goods market, particularly for non-essential items and aspirational products. Lifestyle sub-sectors that are expected to benefit include food and drinks as well as clothing and footwear retail,” the report stated. source

Monday, December 1, 2014

Davao del Sur proposes 3 hydro PPPs

Business World Online
Posted on December 01, 2014 10:27:00 PM

DAVAO CITY -- The Davao del Sur government is seeking to attract investors in renewable energy ahead of the 2016 elections that will install the first officials of the newly-founded Davao Occidental province, which consists of the former second district of Davao del Sur.

In a project proposal submitted to the Mindanao Development Authority, the provincial government said there are three potential hyrdroelectric plants that can be set up for an estimated total cost of $190 million under the public-private partnership (PPP) mechanism.

The proposed sites for the three plants, with a combined output of 43 megawatts (MW), are Malita (10 MW), which will become the capital of Davao Occidental; Don Marcelino (25 MW), another Davao Occidental town; and Digos City (8 MW), capital of Davao del Sur.

Digos City Mayor Joseph P. Penas earlier told BusinessWorld that another renewable energy project that can be developed in the province is a solar farm that will provide power to Kapatagan, an area which the city government is developing into an eco-tourism destination.

Davao Occidental, carved out of the southernmost part of Davao del Sur, was officially created by an act of Congress in July 2013.

Meanwhile, Aboitiz Power Corp. (AboitizPower) recently started exploration work for a planned 200-MW geothermal plant at the Mt. Apo area within Davao del Sur.

Aboitiz Renewables, Inc., the geothermal power arm of AboitizPower, has been exploring 20,000 hectares within the boundaries of Davao City, North Cotabato and Davao del Sur.

AboitizPower said developing renewable power sources is a means of balancing its energy mix in Mindanao where it will open next year a 300-MW coal-fired power plant, which is already being eyed for expansion to up to 600-MW.

Another Aboitiz subsidiary that is producing renewable power in Mindanao is Hedcor, Inc. with its four small hydroelectric power plants in Sibulan, Sta. Cruz, an industrial town in Davao del Sur.

The four plants have a combined 75-MW output, about two-thirds of which goes to neighboring Davao City and the remainder to the province. -- Carmelito Q. Francisco source

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Dutch seek to harness energy from salt water mix

Associated Press 7:10 AM | Thursday, November 27th, 2014

AMSTERDAM — Dutch researchers are seeking to add a new, largely untapped renewable energy source to the world’s energy mix with the opening of a “Blue Energy” test facility on Wednesday.

Blue energy takes advantage of the difference in salt concentration between sea water and fresh water to produce electricity.

Rik Siebers of REDstack BV, the company overseeing the project, said the goal is to improve the technology to the point where it will be profitable to build blue energy plants commercially in the 2020s.

Siebers said blue energy will one day have its own niche.

“For wind turbines you need wind, and solar panels work in the day, but water is always flowing,” he said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

The Dutch plant has a theoretical maximum capacity of 50 megawatts, about enough to power 100 Dutch homes. A more limited trial of similar technology began in Norway in 2009.

The technique uses two specialized filters with salt and fresh water on each side. One filter lets positively charged sodium ions seep through, while the other admits negatively charged chlorine ions, creating a natural battery.

Each square meter of the filter panel can generate roughly one watt, and the filters are then arranged in stacks of hundreds to multiply the effect.

It’s no coincidence the technique is being pioneered in the Netherlands, which has a wealth of river-coast interchanges including the Rhine and Meuse river deltas.

The test plant is strategically located on the Afsluitdijk, the long dike built off the Dutch coast in the 1930s that turned part of the North Sea into an enormous freshwater lake.

The project is being funded by a mix of government and private sponsors, with participation by the University of Twente.  source

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Walden Bello
8:48 AM | Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

When Malacañang asked Congress for emergency powers to address a power crisis that it expected in the summer months of 2015, the impression given was that the country was facing a massive demand that would outrun available supply. In its request, the administration invoked Article 71 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), which states that the chief executive, “upon determination of a shortage of supply of electricity, may ask Congress for authority through a joint resolution, to establish additional generating capacity under such terms and conditions as it may approve.”

Not surprisingly, both the public and lawmakers felt that indeed the country would be facing a national emergency come early 2015.

Crying Wolf

However, from the hearings conducted by the House Committee on Energy on October 19 and November 18, the officials of the Department of Energy (DOE) were forced to admit that: 1) the so-called crisis was based not on projections that the demand for electricity in the period would exceed supply or available capacity but that meeting the peak demand would cut into and bring down the required reserves of electric power that must be maintained; and 2) that what would bring down reserves below the critical level would be the shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas fields for maintenance from mid-March to mid-April 2015.

Malampaya’s gas feeds into into three Luzon power generators–Sta. Rita, San Lorenzo, and Ilijan–so that a shutdown from maintenance would withdraw over 1000 MW of installed capacity.

While the Department of Energy has factored unexpected power outages in its projection of power supply, the key factor behind the expected shortfall is Malampaya’s temporarily going out of commission for maintenance and upgrading by its operator, Shell Inc.

A Shell-driven artificial crisis

Thus, as the House hearings revealed, the so-called crisis was not one of demand exceeding supply but one brought about by the decision of a transnational corporation to conduct its maintenance at the time of the year when demand is greatest, thus creating an artificial deficit not in available generating capacity, as the public was led to believe, but in required regulating reserves. Moreover, the deficit in required reserves would disappear if Shell were to move its maintenance to later in the year, when peak demand would be lower and more capacity would come onstream with new power plants becoming operational.

In response to questions from members of the Committee, DOE personnel said that, in fact, the scheduled maintenance could take place later in the year, as in November or December. Shell, however, wanted to undertake maintenance in March and April, when the seas are reportedly calmer.

This did not strike some members of the Committee as a good excuse, since the last time Shell did maintenance on Malampaya was during the latter part of the year, from November to December 2013. Moreover, for an oil company that is used to doing maintenance and expansion work in the most adverse conditions in the Arctic and the North Sea, having rough seas does not count as an excuse. Pressed, DOE personnel admitted that the executive could in fact tell Shell to conduct its upgrading and maintenance later in the year, and that Shell, in fact, admitted this.

So why could the DOE not press Shell to do its maintenance work on Malampaya at a more suitable time for the country that would eliminate the need for giving the president emergency powers to fill a projected reserves deficit? The question did not receive a satisfactory answer, though DOE Secretary Jericho Petilla did make a contorted effort to explain. Shell’s presence at the hearings could have given lawmakers a chance to come to the root of the problem, but for some reason the request made by the legislators for the DOE to have Shell present at the Nov 18 hearing was not acted upon. They then voted without having heard a word from what one congressman characterized as the invisible but most critical actor in the whole affair.

A triumvirate of foreign players

Shell is not the only transnational giant whose behavior has had a negative bearing on our energy security. Indonesian-owned Meralco will be at the center of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) that will provide the substitute generating capacity withdrawn from the grid during should the House grant the president emergency powers. Under ILP, enterprises that have their own generating sets will voluntarily withdraw from the grid so as to allow other consumers access to power that would otherwise go to them. Since it distributes some 70 per cent of electricity in Luzon, it is unavoidable that Meralco, one of the most abusive monopolies in the country, will be a key player and thus be one of the recipients of the massive government subsidy for private sector participants that the proposed law would authorize to put the ILP system in place.

To Shell and Meralco as foreign players with a negative impact on our power system, one must add the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), which operates the National Transmission Corporation that monopolizes the transmission of electric power throughout the archipelago. NGCP is a private entity that is controlled by a Chinese state firm, the State Grid Corporation of China. During the hearings, conflict between the DOE and the NGCP broke out in the open when the DOE complained about the lack of accurate data on power capacity from NGCP.

The secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier complained about the very slow transfer of technology from Chinese operators to Filipino technicians in the system operator. Most important is the question: with our country having serious territorial dispute with the People’s Republic of China in the West Philippine Sea, is it acceptable from the perspective of national security that our transmission grid is in the hands of a Chinese state corporation that responds primarily to the interests of the Chinese state?

This possibility might presently be remote, but one cannot discount a scenario wherein on orders from Beijing, NGCP could literally bring the country to its knees owing to its monopoly over power transmission.

The real challenge

The debate over the granting of emergency powers to the president has not only exposed the unhealthy impact of foreign entities on our energy security; it has also revealed the vastly diminished role of the government in managing the national energy system.

Planning has fallen by the wayside, with the government now reliant on individual corporate players’ plans, based on profitability, to introduce new generating capacity to meet rising national demand. Secretary Petilla admitted as much when he said the ability to meet rising demand was dependent on private players’ promises on when their new units would go online. Indeed, the government’s ability to forecast demand is now largely dependent on data provided by private sector players.

What we are experiencing is the fiasco brought about by the indiscriminate grant to the private sector of most of the power to manage and operate the country’s energy system by Epira. Epira is a domestic monument to the illusions of privatization that were shredded by the global economic crisis that began in 2008.

Instead of more efficiency, lower prices, and more competition, Epira has delivered higher prices, oligopoly, and a less efficient system.

Replacing or fundamentally amending the dysfunctional Epira is what Congress should be doing, not addressing an artificial crisis created by a foreign transnational. Unfortunately, the likely result of what is now the inevitable granting of emergency powers to the president will be to delay even more addressing the central challenge to meeting our energy security. I am willing to bet that despite much populist rhetoric from members of Congress, the 16th Congress will not tackle Epira reform.

*Walden Bello represents Akbayan in the House of Representatives, where he is a member of the Committee on Energy. source

APEC targets doubling of renewable energy

Manila Bulletin
November 22, 2014

Member economies of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)—the world’s largest producers and consumers of energy—are advancing new measures to double the share of renewable energy in the region within 15 years to keep pace with rising demand and ease the environmental impact of economic development across the Asia-Pacific.

Actions ranging from technical cooperation to facilitate solar photovoltaic rooftop installation to support for low carbon heating system development and renewable energy grid integration were taken forward during a just concluded week-long assembly of APEC energy officials in Port Moresby, on the heels of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting and subsequent bilateral meeting between China and the United States that announced their landmark emissions deal.

apec logo“Economic development and increasing consumption in emerging Asia-Pacific markets will intensify pressure on global energy supplies through the coming decades, even as large, newly accessible reserves come online,” said Nixon Duban, Petroleum and Energy Minister of Papua New Guinea, which began exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a new $19-billion Exxon Mobile project earlier this year.

“The only way we are going to satisfy demand needed to keep our diverse economies moving is by improving the development and use of LNG and conventional fossil fuels while taking further steps to diversify the region’s energy mix,” Duban explained. “All of us in APEC want to see renewables play a larger role in production and consumption in the region and we are working closely to address cost and technical bandwidth issues to help make this happen.”

As APEC economies implement their ground-breaking commitment to reduce tariffs on 54 “environmental goods” to 5% or less by the end of 2015, improving the accessibility of products such as solar panels and wind turbines, emphasis is turning to the fostering of international standards and best practices that are vital to the mainstream application of renewable technologies. A new gap assessment paper is also being prepared.

The APEC Low Carbon Model Town initiative, which promotes low carbon urban design based on real-world feasibility testing, is being expanded in-line with these efforts. Renewable energy-powered buildings and community energy management systems that support solar energy and electric vehicle use are among the proposed measures for adoption in San Borja, Peru, a new participant in the initiative in 2014, which could help to cut its emissions by up to 28 per cent within seven years.

APEC economies this week confirmed Bintung City, in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, as the fifth APEC Low Carbon Model Town whose ranks also include Yujiapu on the outskirts of Tianjin, China; Samui Island, Thailand; and Da Nang, Vietnam. The initiative was launched by APEC in 2010.

“Renewables still account for a modest proportion of energy supplies across the APEC region but there is opportunity for growth,” said Phyllis Yoshida, lead shepherd of the APEC Energy Working Group. “Technological advancements are making renewables more economically viable and increasing the incentives for governments to put in place policies that remove barriers to, and speed up the employment of, these clean, sustainable energy resources.”

Renewables constitute about 10% of energy supplies across APEC economies. In September in Beijing, the region’s Energy Ministers committed to doubling this amount by 2030, from 2010 levels. Definitional issues related to this goal, bearing in mind different environment situations and concerns about the employment of certain kinds of renewable energy, are further challenges being addressed.

A definition for the doubling was adopted this week that includes renewable energy generated by large hydroelectric plants, which APEC economies are collaborating on to make sure is sustainable, but does not include wood fuels, agricultural by-products and dung known as “traditional biomass.” Methodology for measuring progress towards this goal is still being clarified. Monitoring approaches are also being explored.

“We are working to make renewables a cornerstone of energy development and taking on board new policy innovations to move this process forward,” concluded Yoshida, who also serves as United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy. “This isn’t just pie in the sky kind of stuff we’re dealing with but real, concrete steps to boost renewable energy’s contribution to powering economic growth and in ways that reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change.”

Collectively, APEC economies account for 55% of global energy production and 60% of total energy consumption.

To watch video on APEC low-carbon model towns, please click here.