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Study Shows Philippine Power System Can Achieve 30% and 50% Renewable Energy by 2030

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has confirmed the technical viability of achieving renewable energy (RE) penetrations of 30% and 50% in the Republic of the Philippines’ Luzon-Visayas power system by 2030.

Under the leadership on the Philippine Department of Energy (PDOE) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a modeling team consisting of representatives from NREL, PDOE, the Grid Management Committee, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), and the Philippine Electricity Market Association produced the study Greening the Grid: Solar and Wind Integration Study for the Luzon-Visayas System of the Philippines. The team used advanced weather and power system modeling to explore a variety of questions about the operational impacts of reaching high levels of solar and wind energy on the Luzon-Visayas power system, which comprises the largest integrated grid in the Philippines. The study examines the implications of achieving 30% and 50% renewable energy targets in the system planned for 2030. Variable solar and wind energy meets up to 37% of annual electricity demand in the 50% renewable energy scenarios, up from approximately 2.5% in 2016.

“We set research targets to understand how the system might behave under a modest RE penetration level, as well as an aggressive target,” said Clayton Barrows, a member of the Forecasting & Modeling Group in NREL's Strategic Energy Analysis Center and lead author of the study. “The 50% RE penetration targets represent fairly aggressive goals, especially considering the size and geographic isolation of the Luzon-Visayas system.”

The study did not find a technical limit to RE penetration: the modeled 2030 Luzon-Visayas system can balance all high RE scenarios on an hourly basis. This finding indicates that the planned 2030 system has the technical capability to reach a 50% RE target, even when the majority of this RE comes from variable solar and wind. The study assumed the addition of generation and transmission capacity based on existing power sector development plans outlined by PDOE and NGCP. These additions represent significant expansion beyond the power system infrastructure that exists today and will aid the integration of variable RE, likely resolving some of the integration-related issues, such as solar and wind energy curtailment, that have occurred in the Philippines since 2014. Curtailment refers to the amount of renewable energy generated that cannot be used due to grid limitations. 

With these infrastructure enhancements, the Luzon-Visayas power system has the flexibility to accommodate the variability associated with solar and wind energy, with relatively little curtailment. Accessing this flexibility to achieve cost-effective renewable energy integration will involve changes to how the power system is operated. For example, conventional generators (especially coal and natural gas) may need to start and stop more frequently, spend more time at their minimum stable outputs, and increase and decrease their output more rapidly in systems to achieve high levels of solar and wind energy on the grid.

The study used a detailed production cost model to simulate the hourly scheduling of least-cost electric generation for one year under representative weather, load, and outage conditions, while adhering to the physical constraints of the generation fleet and transmission network. In addition to the major findings discussed above, the study also highlighted the following results:

  • Achieving high levels of solar and wind integration will require coordinated planning of generation and transmission to facilitate the development of Luzon and Visayas’ highest-quality solar and wind resources.
  • Strategic, economic curtailments of solar and wind energy can enhance system flexibility (combined solar and wind curtailment does not exceed 7.6% in any scenario).
  • Reserve shortage may become an issue in the 2030 system regardless of renewable energy penetration. Solar and wind generators can provide some types of reserves to the power system if they are allowed to qualify as reserve providers. Additional reserves from conventional generators and/or enhanced reserve sharing between the Luzon and Visayas grids can also help to alleviate potential shortages. 

Hourly animation of modeled results for the Base Case and two 30% renewable energy target scenarios for an example July day.

Hourly animation of modeled results for the Base Case and two 50% renewable energy target scenarios for an example July day.

This study complements other power system planning analyses, such as capacity expansion and load flow modeling, that Philippine power system planners routinely undertake. Taken together, these studies can inform that evolution and contribute to the analytical basis for addressing the technical barriers to achieving a low-cost, clean, reliable, and flexible Philippine power system.

“This grid integration study serves as a positive development in achieving energy security, self- sufficiency, and a low carbon future,” noted Felix William B. Fuentebella, PDOE Undersecretary and Chairman of the Technical Advisory Committee, in his foreword for the study. “Given a different set of scenarios, this study addresses the concerns on [variable renewable energy] penetration, grid integration and the impact on the reliability of the Luzon and Visayas grids. Completed through the active participation of other Philippine government agencies and the private sector, it provides holistic insights and data-based policy recommendations.”

Scenario design, input data, assumptions, and study results were validated extensively by experts from across the Philippine power sector -- through both the interagency modeling team and a broad Technical Advisory Committee. Stakeholder review and guidance were provided by experts from more than 20 institutions, including government agencies, electricity grid and market operators, regulators, transmission and distribution companies, renewable energy developers, independent power producers, utilities, research institutions, and other international experts. The study’s implementation was made possible with significant support from the USAID Building Low Emission Alternatives to Develop Economic Resilience and Sustainability (B-LEADERS) Project.

For additional details, download the full study

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.