ADB urged to shift energy funding from coal to solar

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) should rethink its policy of funding energy projects that use coal and instead help “merchant” solar power facilities to bring down the cost of electricity, solar power entrepreneur Leandro Leviste said on Thursday.

Leviste issued the challenge to the multilateral lending agency in a keynote address at the closing plenary of the weeklong Asia Clean Energy Forum 2018 at the ADB headquarters on Edsa in Mandaluyong City.

At the forum, Leviste, founder and chief executive of Solar Philippines Power Project Holdings, was named one of this year’s seven “New Energy Leaders.”

He represented the leading, young entrepreneurs and innovators in the clean energy sector across Asia.

Respiratory diseases

In his address, the 25-year-old called for support for merchant solar power plants.

Coal emits more carbon per unit of energy than oil, and accounts for 43 percent of global emissions (2.7 billion tons every year). Coal’s two main ingredients, particulate and sulphur dioxide, cause millions of new cases of respiratory disease every year and 500,000 cases of premature death, according to Green Energy and environmentalists.

Merchant plants sell electricity through the spot market, while “contracted” electricity producers have guaranteed buyers through long-term contracts or power-supply agreements.

Solar Philippines has signed contracts for 300 megawatts of generating capacity for as low as P2.99 per kilowatt hour, including deals with utility giant Manila Electric Co.

Leviste said his company was ready to build 5,000 MW more of solar energy farms, potentially sufficient to replace the power produced from coal-fired plants.

Solar rate lowest

Solar Philippines’ rate, equivalent to just $0.057 per kWh, is the lowest solar energy cost in Southeast Asia and the lowest in the Philippines.

Leviste said his company’s power rate was around 50 percent lower than the average cost of electricity from coal in the country.

“Even with the additional cost of storage (battery), our claim is, we can deliver not only peaking, but even 24-hour baseload power at a lower cost than coal and (natural) gas,” he said.

He said this was something ADB should consider next time it received a proposal to finance a new coal power plant.

Oppose new coal plants

“We also call on the ADB to make a decisive statement, opposing the construction of any coal power plant anywhere in the world,” Leviste said.

In a statement, the ADB said its energy policy prioritized energy access, energy efficiency and renewable energy.

“Our energy policy remains relevant and supportive of both the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goal 7 (universal energy for all by 2030),” the bank said.

“While ADB focuses on clean energy, it may support coal-fired power plants in rare cases where ADB developing-member countries have no other viable alternatives to meet the basic needs of energy access,” it added.

ADB said it last approved funding for a coal-fired power plant in December 2013.

“Currently, there are no coal projects in ADB’s pipeline,” the bank said, adding that its policies “are guided by the views of its shareholders.”

“As ADB is preparing its Strategy 2030 to achieve a prosperous, inclusive, resilient and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, we will prepare an energy sector action plan to effectively contribute to the implementation of Strategy 2030,” the multilateral lender said.

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