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DoE studying shift in energy mix to 50% baseload

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THE Department of Energy (DoE) is studying a shift in its energy mix policy in favor of sourcing 50% of the country’s requirements from baseload power plants and 40% from flexible facilities, an official of the agency said on Wednesday.

“[The shift] is based on current trends as far as demand is concerned and also based on the technologies that are coming in,” Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella told participants of a forum hosted by General Electric Philippines, Inc. at Shangri-La at the Fort in Bonifacio Global City.

He said members the DoE’s power bureau are considering “scenarios on how to come out with the proper energy mix.”

“By looking at the data, initially from a 70% baseload, 20% medium range, 10% peaking, we are looking at a shift — around 50% baseload and 40% flexible plants,” he said during the forum.

The 70-20-10 mix is the DoE’s take on what the system requires — that is, the bulk of demand is best supplied by baseload plants or those that continuously run on a 24/7 basis. The 20% medium or mid-merit plants can be quickly switched on and off as required by the system, while the 10% peaking plants address the spike in demand, say, at around noon when power usage is at its highest in Luzon.

The energy mix under the current administration is a revision of the previous tack of the previous leadership, which looked at a 30-30-30-10 distribution for coal, natural gas, renewable energy and oil-fired power plants. Power generation companies use the policy maker’s energy mix direction in guiding their plans to put up new plants.

Mr. Fuentebella said the review of the DoE’s energy mix policy was also dictated by the disruption in the “load side behavior” after the entry of more renewable energy sources.

“We would need more flexible plants. So we’re looking at the role of natgas (natural gas) plants and how [they] will affect coal and how the mix will be affected,” he said.

DoE data, however, show a different picture on the kind of plants that will come online in the coming years.

From January this year until end-2025, a total of 8,618.36 megawatts (MW) of capacity is expected to be added to the country’s power grid, majority of which will come from coal-fired power plants.

Coal will remain the dominant source of power with an expected addition of 6,325 MW. Hydroelectric power is a distant second with 1,133.5 MW, followed by biomass with 240.46 MW.

Despite the vaunted abundance of solar power in the country, it is expected to account for only 92.86 MW of future capacity. New wind projects are nonexistent in the DoE’s latest report.

Natural gas-fired power plants are expected to contribute 650 MW, while geothermal plants are projected to provide 93 MW.

As of end-2017, the Philippines had a total installed capacity of 22,728 MW, of which coal has remained the dominant energy source with a share of 35.4%.

Coal-fired power plants had a total installed capacity of 8,049 MW. Renewable energy sources followed closely at 7,079 MW or 31.1% of the total, although taken individually only hydroelectric power plants posted a double-digit share of the total at 16% or 3,627 MW.

Oil-based energy sources made up 18.3% of the dependable capacity at 4,153 MW. Natural gas had a share of 15.2% or 3,447 MW as of end-2017. — Victor V. Saulon