Leading global solar firm Enfinity is proposing the use of solar-hybrid power as a cost-competitive solution to reduce subsidy to off-grid areas such as those under the Small Power Utilities Group (SPUG) of the National Power Corp. (Napocor).
Solar hybrid power systems are hybrid power systems that combine solar power from a photovoltaic system with another power generating energy source.
William Ruccius, business development director of Enfinity Asia Pacific Holdings Ltd., said there is vast potential for solar hybrid deployment along SPUG areas.
He noted that Napocor has 280 SPUG power plants, with sizes ranging from 40 kilowatts (kW) to about 10 megawatts (MW).
“These off-grid areas are currently being serviced with their electricity needs via diesel-fired power generating facilities that tend to be more expensive,” Ruccius said.
Ruccius said the true cost of generation rate (TCGR) in these areas typically range from P14 to P45 per kilowatt hour, and electricity is just being made available to them anywhere from eight to 16 hours a day.
Part of the electricity cost being paid by consumers in SPUG areas is covered by subsidies.
But when cheaper alternatives such as hybrids will be provided, Ruccius said the level of subsidy may also be reduced.
With hybrid solar and battery storage system as back-up technology, Enfinity noted that these areas could opt for less costly solutions while also lessening their carbon footprints.
According to Dr. Platon Baltas of Enfinity, “photovoltaic (PV) prices are expected to drop even more, providing electricity at lower cost than many fossil-fueled power plants.”
The battery storage component can also extend electricity service in these areas for round-the-clock duration, as has already been tested by hybrid systems deployed in various rural areas around the world.
Baltas added that “hybrids can provide 24/7 service at affordable cost for houses connected to bad electricity grids, and the systems being deployed would generally comprise of PV array, battery and hybrid inverter.”
For home systems, he said “small inverters have been developed and is technically and economically-feasible to have 24/7 service in islands with intermittent grids.”
‘So much solar resource’
Ruccius cited that around Asia-Pacific, there are so many opportunities, noting that Guam has over 500 MW of capacity and is all diesel or heavy fuel oil.
“All the islands in the Pacific have expensive diesel when they have so much solar resource,” he said.
For the Philippines, he noted that there are two ways for private investors to take their investment stake along off-grid or SPUG areas – either to become a new power provider (NPP) or a qualifying third party (QTP).
Ruccius, however, said that there are still some commercial and market risk issues that need to be addressed in the regulatory and policy frameworks of the industry before hybrid solutions can become viable in these areas.
He particularly cited the credit-worthiness predicament of many electric cooperatives, including those that have been catering to the service needs of the SPUG areas.
“The problem here is that many electric cooperatives are not credit worthy and it is difficult to get paid,” he said.
He added that the QTP provides the generation and also takes over the distribution function, so it collects the money and pays itself.
“Financing is the biggest challenge if appropriate framework is not in place. Electrification should result to increase so loans can be paid back,” Baltas said.