Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Vietnam sharply increases to export coal to Laos market

Vietnam sharply increases to export coal to Laos market

Information from the General Department of Customs shows that in the first 8
months of 2017, Vietnam exports coal to almost all markets increasingly in
comparison with that in the same time of the last year. It is particularly
noticeable that coal export to Laos market increased for 16 times by amount
(50,455 tons) and 15 times by value (4.32 million US$).

In the first 8 months of 2017 the total amount of export coal of Vietnam was
1.3 million tons with a value of 180.6 million US$ (increased respectively
132% and 215% over the same time of 2016).

In August, 2017 the country exported coal of nearly 131,734 tons with a
value of 15.33 million US$ (decreased respectively for 6% and 13.65 in
comparison with that in July, 2017)

The price of export coal in the first 8 months of 2017 was increased for 14%
in comparison with that in the same time of 2016 (116.4 US$/ton vs. 102

The markets which import coal from Vietnam include:

i) Japan with 52% by amount (671,647 tons) and 46% by value (83.25 million
US$), ii) ASEAN countries with 24% by amount (308,172 tons) and 29% by value
(51.63 million US$), and iii) Malaysia with 12% by amount (157,889 tons) and
20% by value (more than 36.84 million US$).

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John Diecker
APT Consulting Group Co., Ltd.

Philippines - ERC: Meralco PSAs are not yet approved by commission

Philippines - ERC: Meralco PSAs are not yet approved by commission


In a joint hearing in Congress on Tuesday, Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate cited
a column posted saying that the seven PSAs have been approved by the

"There is no such decision," ERC commissioner Josefina Asirit said, adding
that there were seem to be no basis for the statements made in the column
mentioned by the congressman.

When asked about the status of the seven PSAs, the ERC said that three of
them have not been scheduled for a hearing.

"Actually of the 7 PSAs, three have not even been scheduled for a hearing
yet because of the lack Environmental Compliance Certificate," she said.

According to the ERC, three PSAs are currently on hearing.

Meanwhile, the PSA with the Panay Energy Development Corporation was already
given a provisional authority.

The provisional authority means that the distribution utility the power to
draw power from the existing plant.

"If I'm not mistaken this one was to augment the supply status that the
demand of Meralco needed at the particular period," Asirit added.

The provisional authority, however, is still subject to final determination.

The ERC was accused of being involved with alleged 'midnight' deals to
accommodate Meralco PSAs involving different power plants.

These included Meralco PSAs with Panay Energy Development Corp. (70 MW),
Redondo Peninsula Energy Inc. (225 MW), St. Raphael Power Generation Corp.
(400 MW), Central Luzon Premiere Power Corp. (528 MW), Mariveles Power
Generation Corp. (528 MW), Global Luzon Energy Development Corp. (600 MW),
and the Atimonan One Energy Inc. (1,200 MW).

The next hearing on the alleged midnight deals will include the
representatives of the seven generation companies involved in the PSAs with
Meralco and is scheduled on October 11.

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John Diecker
APT Consulting Group Co., Ltd.

ASEAN to push 'clean' coal technologies

ASEAN to push 'clean' coal technologies

THE 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
are aiming to "enhance the image of coal" by promoting "clean" technologies,
representatives of host country Philippines said on Tuesday.

"Activities laid out include public awareness, recognition of best
practices, trade and investment, collaboration with global networks, policy
research and build capacity through workshops," said Felix William B.
Fuentebella, undersecretary of the Department of Energy (DoE), in a press
conference in Pasay City.

He also said the capacity-building would include yearly submissions to an
ASEAN coal database and information system.

The promotion of clean coal technology is one of seven areas in the regional
bloc's agenda this year. These areas form the gist of the ASEAN Plan of
Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2016-2025. The member states this week
will discuss these action plan during the 35th ASEAN Ministers on Energy
Meeting at Conrad Hotel in Pasay City.

Separately in a statement, DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said that
activities and discussions during the meetings "are geared towards
solidifying the cooperation activities programmed" under the APAEC.

"Ensuring the attainment of these agenda items will also advance the
country's objective in continuously hosting energy events in the region,"
Mr. Cusi said.

Mr. Fuentebella said the discussions would include three other countries:
China, Japan and South Korea. He said the senior officials meeting on energy
plus the three countries would review and deliberate on the progress made in
implementing the work programs under APAEC.

The other day, he said Malaysia, Thailand and Laos are set to sign a deal
that would allow these countries to trade electricity.

He said an ASEAN-wide power grid is one of the seven program areas that
member states will discuss in the coming days. The others are trans-ASEAN
gas pipeline; coal and clean coal technology; energy efficiency and
conservation; renewable energy; regional energy policy and planning; and
civilian nuclear energy.

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John Diecker
APT Consulting Group Co., Ltd.

Cambodia: 'No Impact' on Fish From Major Hydropower Projects, PM Claims

Cambodia: 'No Impact' on Fish From Major Hydropower Projects, PM Claims

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday claimed that there had been no downstream
impact on fish stocks as a result of the construction of the Don Sahong
hydropower dam in Laos.

The construction of the 260-MW dam began in January 2016, raising concerns
among environmentalists over possible impacts on fish migration.

The NGO International Rivers said the dam would block and threaten "vital
subsistence and commercial fisheries in the Lower Mekong Basin."

But during a speech on Monday Hun Sen rejected the concerns. "Even the Laos
Don Sahong dam, it will not kill the fish," he said.

"I visited [the dam]. It does not have any impacts," he said. "But we will
reduce impacts to a minimum if there are any."

Hun Sen also claimed, without providing evidence, that there was no evidence
there would be impacts on fisheries from the Lower Sesan II dam, which is
being readied to go into operation in Cambodia's Stung Treng province.

"Do our country's fish know how to climb trees? Do they know how to climb
mountains?" Hun Sen asked, mocking research that suggests the Lower Sesan II
will affect 70 percent of fish in Cambodia's Mekong Basin.

"Construction of the dam has been justified on the basis of mitigation
measures that developers claim will allow the movement of migratory fish up
and downstream. However, these measures have not been adequately tested and
scientists are highly critical about their ability to enable continued fish
migration on the scale prior to development of the dam," International
Rivers has reported.

Laos is building a series of dams on the Lower Mekong, much to the dismay of
downstream communities and environmental groups.

Daovong Phonekeo, permanent secretary of Laos' Ministry of Energy, told VOA
that the proper environmental impact assessments had been carried out ahead
of the dams' approval.

But Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum, said the consequences
of Laos and Cambodia's dam-building would be that the "Mekong will not be a
river of well-being and prosperity anymore. It will become the river of dams
and controversies."

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John Diecker
APT Consulting Group Co., Ltd.

Southeast Asia to spend $500b on power projects in the next five years

Southeast Asia to spend $500b on power projects in the next five years

Over 32,700 active projects will be scheduled for construction start-up.

Over the next five years (2018-2022), more than 32,700 active projects are
scheduled for construction start-up, amounting to a potential investment of
more than US$4.1t, according to Industrial Info Resources.

Industrial Info Resources currently is tracking more than 46,900 active
projects worldwide in power generation spending, reflecting an overall
investment value of more than US$6.3t.

Asia leads the rest of the world with more than 14,800 active projects that
amount to US$2.17t in investment value. East and Southeast Asia, with an
investment value of $1.27t, represent more than half of the whole
continent's activity in power generation spending.

In Southeast Asia, Industrial Info is tracking 3,300+ active projects that
are scheduled for construction start-up over the next five years
(2018-2022), reflecting potential spending of more than $505b. Indonesia
leads in project activity with almost 30% of the region's total investment

The Philippines is second, although it has the highest number of projects,
with 18.6%. Vietnam ranked third with 19.5%. Coal is still a major fuel
source at 29.9% in power generation spending in the region; renewable energy
leads with 49.8%.

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John Diecker
APT Consulting Group Co., Ltd.

Solar, wind advances offer Mekong countries alternatives to dams, coal: Experts

Solar, wind advances offer Mekong countries alternatives to dams, coal: Experts

Mekong Region countries like Cambodia should reconsider their plans to expand hydropower dams and coal plants, as the costs of alternative energy sources, such as solar power, are rapidly falling, a U.S. think-tank said, while improved regional grid connections can also ease growing energy demand.

Experts of the Washington-based Stimson Center provided these recommendations following the launch of a report in July that analyzed the economic and technological opportunities for improving and diversifying the Mekong Region's energy mix.

Brian Eyler, who co-authored the report, said the region's governments would be wise to review their energy master plans in order to not miss out on opportunities offered by new technologies, which carry less environmental and social impacts than large hydropower dams and coal-fired plants.

"It's a good time to take a pause. Our message is not for countries in the Mekong Subregion to stop power-sector planning, but… to take a look at these emerging trends," he said.

Courtney Weatherby, another author of the report titled "Mekong Power Shift: Emerging Trends in the GMS Power Sector," said changing current energy master plans to include more wind and solar power, and cross-border energy trade, makes economic sense.

"There are a lot of changes that will have to happen in the power-utility sector that may be disruptive in the short term, but in the long term they will lead to much more flexible and resilient system," she said.

Dams vs solar costs

Hundreds of large dams have been built or planned on the Mekong and its tributaries, as well as other rivers, in the Greater Mekong Subregion, which comprises Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and south China's Yunnan and Guangxi provinces.

Hydropower projects - many of which are planned with funding from Chinese, Thai, or other regional and Western investors - are often controversial due to their heavy environmental and social impacts. These disproportionately affect local villagers, while some dams - especially on the mainstream Mekong - can impact fish stocks across the region.

A total of 11 Mekong dams have been planned: nine are located in Laos – two of which are under construction and a third is approved – while two dams are proposed in Cambodia. Environmental group International Rivers has warned for years that the dams threaten the livelihoods of millions of poor fish-dependent villagers.

Campaigners, local activists, and downstream countries such as Vietnam have tried in vain to stop the dams. Coal-fired plants, meanwhile, are often opposed as they cause serious local air pollution, while they release carbon, which worsens climate change.

The Stimson Center researchers said alternative solar and wind technologies are quickly becoming more affordable and efficient, while these can also offer energy solutions in rural areas without grid connections.

They note, for example, that the U.S. average cost per unit for these respective energy sources dropped 85 percent and 65 percent between 2009 and 2016 — a trend that is likely to continue.

Weatherby said, "If you have solar available in the next few years at 6 cents a kilowatt hour, then some of the most-damaging dams really don't make sense when you look at the economic calculus for building them" as many planned Mekong Region dams would sell power at 8 or 9 cent per unit.​

Grid expansion

Experts said that as the Mekong countries expand their electricity sources and national grids through new technology and investment, there are also opportunities to improve efficiency in transmission, increase cross-border energy trade, and expand connections in rural areas.

"Through new power grid transmission, regional power trade and transmission mechanisms, the region can do more with a less-damaging power infrastructure," said Eyler.

Particularly, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, which have yet to develop large national grids, should expand through new grid management technology that can integrate renewable energy sources, while also investing in storage technology that can buffer intermittent supply from wind and solar energy.

Financing for energy supply innovation and grid expansion could come from the Asian Development Bank or China's new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the researchers suggested.

Cambodia looks to dams

Sao Sopheap, spokesperson of Cambodia's Ministry of Environment, said hydropower remained nonetheless attractive, while claiming that the government has the capacity to carry out comprehensive environmental impact assessments for dams and address their negative impacts.

"We still need [energy]. We can generate energy from many sources and hydropower from the dams, we think, is a renewable energy that Cambodia has good potential for," he said.

"The Ministry of Environment will do the environment impacts assessment… We check, evaluate and verify before agreeing that the study and evaluation is acceptable, and we (ensure) the environmental impacts can be reduced at maximum."

According to official figures, about half of the country's energy needs are currently met by hydropower, while almost a fifth is still imported from neighboring countries.

The Ministry of Mines and Energy could not be reached for comment.

On Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen inaugurated the 400-megawatt Lower Sesan II Dam, located on a Mekong tributary in northeastern Cambodia's Stung Treng Province. The country's largest dam was developed by Cambodian conglomerate Royal Group and a subsidiary of the state-owned China Huaneng Group Corporation.

At the event, Hun Sen played down concerns over the $800-million dam's impact on fisheries, adding that the effects of the nearby, 260-megawatt Don Sahong Dam - being built by Laos on a channel of the Mekong in an area where the rivers splits – had been negligible.

NGOs and local villagers have resisted the Lower Sesan 2 for years, but ultimately some 5,000 families were evicted from the area, while some 100 families held out for better compensation. Almost 40,000 upstream villagers are likely to see fish stocks collapse as fish migration routes become blocked, researchers have warned, while stocks could also suffer downstream.

Transparency and risk

The Stimson Center researchers said decisions on energy projects are not motivated by economic reasoning alone and they urged greater transparency in decision-making about, and allocation of, project tenders.

"Key changes would be to have competitive bidding for projects, which opens up opportunity for more outside analysis of what happens with individual projects," said Weatherby.

The Mekong Region countries are plagued by high-level corruption and allegations of kickbacks for government officials awarding project contracts are not uncommon.

Richard Cronin, a Stimson Center fellow who was not involved in the report, said investment in large projects such as mega-dams also carry political and economic risks as projects can run aground. The China-backed Myitsone Dam in Myanmar, for example, was suspended by the government in 2011 following a public backlash against Chinese investment, which is deeply unpopular in the country.

"The Chinese still have like $1.2 billion in investment tied up in that project. It's not going anywhere right now," he said.

A recent push by the new National League for Democracy government to build more coal-fired plants and lower the energy share of hydropower dams is meanwhile running into local opposition at project sites in southern Myanmar.

Cambodia's first solar farm

Despite the Cambodian government's focus on hydropower dams, alternative energy project are advancing with donor support. On September 6, the country's first solar farm, with a capacity of 10 Megawatt, came online in the eastern Svay Rieng Province. The $9.2 million project was developed by the Singapore-based Sunseap Group and funded through an Asian Development Bank loan.

During the opening ceremony, Keo Rottanak, director-general of state-run Electricite du Cambodge, lauded the clean energy it would provide and said a similar project could be developed near the capital Phnom Penh.

Independent experts and activists said developing such projects and creating a sizable wind and solar energy sectors in Cambodia would offer social and environmental benefits. But they warned that increasing supply and making the sectors price competitive with hydropower requires much more research, planning and investment.

"The challenge for this energy is the price… (currently) it requires users to buy energy at higher price. So production is the challenge," said Tek Vannara, executive director of the NGO Forum on Cambodia.

Seak Sophat, the head of the Department of Natural Resource Management and Development at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, said for now hydropower has the upper hand and remains a good option "if we can construct it at a place where it has no impacts on natural resources and environment."

Household solar panels

Meanwhile, rural Cambodian households are also becoming aware of the increasingly affordable solar-power technology. Household solar panels have become increasingly popular in recent years, with thousands of rural families installing the panels so that they can charge a battery to power simple home appliances.

Sun Sothea, 35, one of many market traders in Thnanh Village, Svay Rieng Province, said he bought a solar panel last year for about $400, which he said brings enough power to his home to use the lights and fans to cool off in the tropical heat.

"I cannot use it with big things, like running machinery or water pumps," he said. "We still need (more) electricity soon."

Another villager, In Boy, 65, said, "Since I have been waiting for electricity for so long, I decided to buy solar power to use. It's so boring when there's no electricity… Other residents in other areas have it too."

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John Diecker
APT Consulting Group Co., Ltd.

Malaysia, Thailand, Laos to sign energy-trading deal

Malaysia, Thailand, Laos to sign energy-trading deal

MALAYSIA, Thailand and Laos are set to sign a deal that will allow
electricity trading among the three countries in a move that takes the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) a step forward in its plan
for greater power connectivity, the Philippines' energy department said.

"They are going to sign an agreement . I think it's more on the [power] grid
- they will interconnect, on Thursday," said Department of Energy (DoE)
Undersecretary Felix William B.

Fuentebella in a press conference on Monday to set the guidelines for media
covering the 35th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting in Pasay City.

The meeting, which is set from Sept. 25-29 at Conrad Hotel, will gather the
region's energy ministers except for three nations that will send heads of
delegation because of pressing issues in their territories. It formally
opens on Wednesday, although technical representatives of the 10 ASEAN
member states have made advanced meetings.

Mr. Fuentebella did not disclose details of the Malaysia-Thailand-Laos
electricity deal except to point that is is part of the ASEAN Plan of Action
for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) for 2016-2025, a sort of blueprint for
regional energy cooperation.

He said an ASEAN-wide power grid is one of seven program areas that member
states will discuss in the coming days. The others are a trans-ASEAN gas
pipeline; coal and clean coal technology; energy efficiency and
conservation; renewable energy; regional energy policy and planning; and
civilian nuclear energy.

"ASEAN recognizes the critical role of an efficient, reliable and resilient
electricity infrastructure in stimulating regional economic growth and
development. To meet the growing electricity demand, huge investments in
power generation capacity will be required," the ASEAN action plan states.

It said the construction of the regional power grid is first done on
cross-border bilateral terms, then expanded to a sub-regional basis and
finally to a total integrated regional system.

"It is expected to enhance electricity trade across borders which would
provide benefits to meet the rising electricity demand and improve access to
energy services in the region," it added.

For the Philippines, Mr. Fuentebella said grid interconnection with the rest
of the region is a distant goal, although an energy technical arm is
studying the plan. He said countries within a contiguous area would be
closer to fulfilling that plan.

He said during the five-day event, the country is set to hold bilateral
meetings with several countries in ASEAN, the regional bloc that groups
Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

He also said the Philippines and China will meet to give updates on their
energy cooperation agreement signed last year.

"They (China) are trying to understand our system for engaging in the energy
business," he said, adding that for Chinese businesses a private
sector-driven energy sector is a different concept.

"They are trying to understand how they will engage. They are trying to
understand the wholesale electricity spot market, how to contract in a power
supply agreement, whom to talk to," he said.

He said the engagement with China is with the view to a possible investment
in the local energy sector.

"They are exploring because we tell them that the generation and the supply
side is competitive but as far as the distribution and transmission, [they
are] highly regulated," he said.

"If you want to practice, if you want to invest here in the Philippines,
even if we have a small demand, our system is very competitive," he said
about how the department is packaging the country as a good investment area
for China.

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John Diecker
APT Consulting Group Co., Ltd.