The ASEP-CELLs Project held its second Research Advisory Board Meeting on 28 October 2020 via Zoom. Attended by advisory board members, CELL representatives and staff, the meeting primarily discussed the research progress of the project . Altogether there were 39 participants including 6 of 8 members of the Board.

The meeting annually convenes to discuss the path of the project’s knowledge management pillar. Research studies are presented with valuable inputs by the technical experts who comprise the Board. They guide the project’s research agenda towards addressing salient issues regarding renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy access in the country.

Dr. Josef Yap, Senior Technical Advisor, presented the completed researches led by his team at the Project Management Office and the Luzon CELL, namely:

  1. Access to Sustainable Energy in the Philippines: Market Failure and Political Economy Considerations
  2. Managing the Energy Trilemma in the Philippines
  3. Evaluating the Feed-in Tariff Policy in the Philippines
  4. Revisiting the Nuclear Option in the Philippines
  5. Managing the Energy Trilemma using

Optimal Portfolio Theory

  1. Politico Economic Determinants of Electric Cooperatives’ Performance in the Philippines

All research papers are available for viewing and downloading on the ASEP-CELLs website.

Likewise, Dr. Yap presented the ongoing and planned research topics that are likely  to be completed by the first quarter of 2021.

The Advisory Board members provided valuable insights on the research studies. Atty. Raphael Lotilla, former Energy Secretary, mentioned the DOE’s new moratorium for green field coal-fired projects, where simulations show that the country will not need base load coal-fired power plants for the next 20 years — making room for more renewable energy.

Atty. Lotilla further discussed that if we are to effectively manage the carbon transition, we need to have all the segments aligned including the regulatory framework and rate setting agencies.

In response, Mr. Chrysogonus Herrera, Senior Vice President for Commercial Planning of Meralco PowerGen Corporation, explained the implications of installing solar-based rooftops in the individual houses. This reduces the consumption from the distribution utility, and by extension its  energy sales. This in turn diminishes the return to their investments. The captive consumers will pay an increasing amount because the denominator is reduced every time a solar panel is installed.  Another impact is  the life line rates will be spread over a smaller number of consumers. The result is a double whammy on consumers who do not install solar panels.

Mr. Herrera suggested that there should be more solar power energy in the main grid than in the individual household. Atty. Lotilla proposed that this policy issue  be addressed by the regulators and possibility be looked into by the project.  Dr. Yap later suggested that Solar Solutions could look into this issue in their research study.

Director Mylene Capongcol, Director of DOE’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau, argued that this is not necessarily the case as taxes are imposed by the government energy agencies to regulate the electricity cost distribution. Energy distributors have the option to choose their renewable energy suppliers. A current need is the innovation on distribution as far as current renewable energy policies are concerned.

Another interesting topic discussed by the board was Dr. Yap’s paper titled Revisiting Nuclear Energy Power in the Philippines. In this study, Dr. Yap presented an unbiased view  on the issue of  the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP). He argued that the decision of not operating the BNPP was a political decision and not grounded on science. Atty. Raphael Lotilla, shared his insight that he is personally not in favor of banning technologies. He said that what we have been missing a regulatory framework for nuclear power. No one has really looked into the regulatory requirement, and there are different subsets in this topic.

Atty. Antonio La Viña shared his views on the topic, discussing that there are three factors that should be considered when deciding to operate  a nuclear power plant: (1) consent of communities, i.e. which can be facilitated by the inclusion of nuclear energy in the educational system; (2) the capacity of the country to operate; and (3) political stand towards climate change.

With the recent decision of Japan to cut carbon emission by 2050, and China by 2060, he sees that 2021 will begin the golden age of ambitious climate action for mitigation.

Ms. Cecil Benavidez, Project Manager, presented the project milestones to the board (see Figures 1 and 2). Amidst the delay due to a number of factors, the project is seen to progress steadily. The installation of solar PVs in Gilutongan island in Cebu, the conduct of the Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao energy for a, and the conduct of focused group discussions in Cagayan de Oro, and increased visibility of the project were only a few of the milestones presented.

Figure 1. Timeline of ASEP-CELLs Partners’ Milestones
Figure 2. Timeline of ASEP-CELLs Project Management Office’s Milestones

This was affirmed by Mr. Giovanni Seritella, Programme Manager – Environment and Climate Change of the Delegation of the European Union to the Philippines. He noted that despite the pandemic, the project managed to advance reasonably well. He was also pleased to report that the second tranche of the project funding will be made available very soon to the implementors.

The meeting was adjourned on a high note, taking into consideration that 2021 will be the homestretch for the project.