microRenewables Magazine, Issue #12

Here’s the microRenewables Magazine Issue #12. The pdf file is about 40 Mb. The cover story is about picohydro.

Roberto Verzola


microRenewables #11

You can now download the latest issue of microRenewables here.


MicroRenewables Magazine Issue #10

You can now download the 10th issue of the microRenewables Magazine here.

microRenewables Magazine Issue#9

The PDF file of the 9th issue of the microRenewables Magazine published by CREST may now be downloaded here (mR9).

Is there a Grand Omnipotent Designer?

I will discuss this topic on Feb. 23, Saturday, 4pm at the University of the Philippines Hotel. The forum is organized by the Diliman Book Club. My presentation is based on reading some 20 books on the matter.

The PDF file of my bullet point presentation can be downloaded here.

Roberto Verzola


2022 is 50th martial law anniversary, national election year, and time for historical judgment

I just finished a piece on the martial law debates, which usually reach their peak in September. It is entitled “2022 elections will decide Philippine history’s heroes and villains”.

Download the piece here.

The piece explains why this debate will reach its peak in 2022, which is the 50th anniversary of martial law in the Philippines, as well as the year when we elect a new set of national leaders.

Finally I draw a scenario about potential candidates for the top national leadership position.



microRenewables, Issue No. 8

This is Issue No. 8 of microRenewables Magazine, for download. It is a 12 Mb file.

The Table of Contents include:

  1. Editorial: Can the Philippine electricity sector reduce its carbon emissions by 70%?
  2. Renewable energy syllabus now ready for piloting
  3. Aurora folks learn micro-RE installation
  4. Solar PV energizes Dumagat Heritage Village in Bulacan
  5. My internship at CREST
  6. DIY lithium battery storage
  7. SRI beats 10 hybrid varieties in 2017 Samar rice derby
  8. SRI: the seven basic practices

Roberto Verzola

Note: The pdf file was edited for minor corrections and updated Sept. 20, 2018. If you downloaded Issue No. 8 before Sept. 20, 2018, please discard that version and download the current one, which is the final version for public circulation.


Nutrition lessons from human evolution

This is my presentation for the July 21 session of the Diliman Book Club.

It recounts my ongoing research on nutrition and diet, to cope with a spine problem due to an abnormal growth. This research led me to review various theories of human evolution to learn what foods are best for H.sapiens. Click the following link to download the PDF file. (Diliman Book Club Presentation by Roberto Verzola 21 Jul 2018)


Back online

My apologies for not having posted for months.

I was preoccupied with medical issues and still tried to keep a level of activity for my two major advocacies, the system of rice intensification (SRI) and renewable energy (RE)/sustainable technologies.

I will be posting more often from now on.

For a quick update:

I traveled to Dumaguete and Siquijor last week, to give lecturers both on SRI and on RE.

Before this, CREST had conducted two trainings in San Luis, one on solar and another on microhydro.

My draft of a paper on our Paris commitment to reduce GHG emissions 70% by 2030 — that this is doable in the electricity sector — is nearly done. I will share the draft here, so it can benefit from feedback before being finalized.

I have also drafted a critique of the DOE’s baseload bloat, in its Power Development Plan 2016-2040.

And there a third draft: the results of a simulation I did on solar energy deployment in the Philippines and how it will affect the share of baseload plants in the country’s energy mix.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with the staff of Cong. Rav Rocamora on the CREST proposal for a brownout-free Siquijor through a SWITCHOFF campaign.

Today, CREST is doing consultations at the Bayleaf Hotel on the 5-unit RE syllabus we are crafting, an open-source document for academic institutions.

Lots to report about! More later…

Obet Verzola



World Energy Congress paper on lessons from the information economy for renewables in attaining economies of scale

This is the full text of the paper (in pdf) I presented at the 23rd World Energy Congress (WEC) held October 9-12, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey.

It discusses 10 lessons from the IT industry in attaining economies of scale which may be applicable to renewables. The most important of these is the downsizing of their product from mainframe to micro.

Roberto Verzola

Renewables should shift from a mainframe to a micro paradigm

To reduce climate change risk in the next ten years, we need more than one technology. We need technology approaches and business models that can make carbon-free or carbon-neutral renewable energy as accessible and abundant as information has become today.

This means we need to learn from the approaches and models of the IT industry and how it managed to reduce the cost of information processing several orders of magnitude lower, from millions of dollars for a huge mainframe to a few dollars for a tiny single-board computer today.

This feat brought information processing devices to unprecedented levels of affordability and plenty. As the cost of information itself approached zero, new business models emerged that charged either per-month or per-gigabyte, gave it away for free, or their various combinations. With users also becoming potential suppliers of information or service, peer-to-peer became as important as client-server business models. Because of their low price and abundance, the IT industry’s microchips have become fundamental building blocks at the core of all modern devices, turning computers into deep game-changers—they changed the rules of the game not only within their industry but in every aspect of society too.

The IT industry attained this feat by downsizing from mainframes to microcomputers, shifting its focus from economies of scale in size to economies of scale in quantity. While building larger and more powerful computers attained the industry some economies of scale, these could not compare to the economies of scale attained by mass-producing millions of tiny computers year after year. This (and other approaches) enabled the industry to maintain virtuous cycles of continually decreasing prices and increasing production.

Lower prices typically discourage production: this is what conventional economic theory asserts. But lower prices also encourage demand. If greater demand enables producers to reach such economies of scale that their costs of production drop faster than the drop in prices, then they are encouraged to produce even more, leading to the virtuous cycles that we still see today in the information industries.

If renewables can parallel this process, then not only can the industry avert the looming disasters due to fossil-fuel burning, it may also bring about a new era of clean, cheap and abundant electricity which can become a long-term foundation for building modern sustainable societies.

The solar PV industry is also silicon-based, like the industries that produce the chips at the heart of every digital device. The photovoltaic cell has in fact shown the same virtuous cycle of decreasing prices and increasing production as the rest of the electronic chip industry. One might therefore think that they would have learned the lesson well.

Apparently not. The PV industry today is upsizing. The biggest solar panels are now 300 watts, from 100 watts several years ago. The PV industry seems focused on serving the growing market for solar farms, which started below one megawatt, but are in the hundred-megawatt range today.

The wind industry is afflicted with giantism, starting with kilowatt-sized turbines a few decades back, to 8-megawatt turbines today.

The hydro industry likewise continues to focus mainly on megadams and multi-megawatt facilities.

They all remain tied to the mainframe paradigm, trying to attain economies of scale in size. How far can upsizing go before reaching diminishing returns?

I suggest that the impact of renewables will be far greater if they go for economies of scale not in size but in quantity. If they manage to trigger virtuous cycles of decreasing prices and increasing production, microrenewables hold the potential of becoming another deep game-changer—like microcomputers—averting climate change risks and changing the rules beyond the energy game.

This idea has actually passed some close scrutiny. My 17-page paper on downsizing and other IT approaches (Roberto Verzola, “Virtuous Cycles of Expanding Production and Lower Costs in Renewables”, 23rd World Energy Congress, October 2016) went through the standard peer-review process, was accepted for presentation, and was well-received at the World Energy Congress in Istanbul, Turkey last October.

(This blog is my entry to the 2017 Masdar Engage Blogging Contest.)

Crossing Over (Second Edition) by Roberto Verzola

I’m glad to announce the release of the second edition of my book (Crossing Over: The Energy Transition to Renewable Electricity). As usual with all my works, the full text of the book is available online for free download. To download, just click on the book title above.

Changes have been occurring at breakneck speed in the renewables sector, requiring lots of updates and new material, more than a year after the first edition came out in March 2015.

Aside from the 2016 updates, the most important additions are:

  • My analysis of the Philippine Energy Program 2012-2030 of the previous Aquino administration, showing that it was already possible as early as 2012 to stop all new coal plant construction.
  • My contention that the best way for the renewables sector to attain economies of scale is to follow the IT industry’s approach of downsizing computers from mainframes to micro, and going after economies of scale in quantity instead of size.
  • A much-improved description of net metering and the Philippine utilities’ illegal implementation of this important provision of the Renewable Energy Act.

Merry Christmas to all!

Roberto Verzola 12/22/2016

SRI Pilipinas on the basics of the System of Rice Intensification:

This presentation by SRI Pilipinas provides the basic concepts behind the successful System of Rice Intensification (SRI). It explains the “secret” of SRI: it is learning how the grow more tillers. Under SRI, farmers can consistently grow rice plants averaging 25, 35, 50 and even more productive tillers each. This is how SRI’s dramatic yields are attained.

If you want help in conducting SRI trials in your area, please contact: Roberto Verzola, National Coordinator, SRI Pilipinas, rverzola@gn.apc.org, 0917-811-7747.

The Energy Road Not Taken: How the Philippine Energy Plan can lead to a coal-free future within a few years

This piece is a briefing paper for incoming officials who will be elected during the May 9, 2016 elections who will be appointed subsequently.

Its message is basic: the government expects demand for electricity for the period 2012-2030 to grow by around 4.25% (to 23,158 MW by 2030). The details are in the government’s Philippine Energy Plan 2012-2030. PEP 2012 also includes a Philippine Energy Efficiency Project (PEEP) which targets a 200-MW savings in electricity demand annually, bringing down the growth rate in demand to around 3.28% (19,558 MW by 2030). To keep the grid reliable, required reserves must also be added according to a government formula, making the required supply roughly 11-16% above the projected demand (21,634 MW by 2030).

The government has a National Renewable Energy Program (NREP), which targets some 9,525 MW of capacity to be installed in the planning period 2012-2030.

Our remarkable finding is that if we take the existing and committed supply as given (16,244 MW as of 2011), the NREP renewable-only targets are more than enough to provide the required supply up to 2030.

Thus, there is no need to build any new coal or other fossil-fueled power plants in the future.

For the details, please download the briefing paper.

Roberto Verzola


Philippine pseudo-net-metering scheme double-charges customers

This is the paper I submitted to the Energy Policy and Development Program (EPDP) Conference 2016, which will be held January 12-13, 2016 in Manila.

I present in the paper what I believe are iron-clad arguments that the so-called “net-metering” being implemented today by Philippine electric utilities violates the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 and results in the double-charging of net-metered utility customers.

The full text of the paper may be downloaded here (Philippine pseudo-net-metering results in the double-charging of customers by RVerzola).

Roberto Verzola

Can micropower become as deep a game-changer as microprocessing?

This is the title of the speech I’m giving Jan. 8, 2016 at the annual meeting of the Geosciences and Reservoir Engineering Group of the Energy Development Corp. The title says it all.

Developments in the renewable energy field indicate that we are entering a period very much like the early period of microprocessing. The technologies are almost there but not quite. Lots of innovation is going on. Prices keep dropping yet production keeps rising, contrary to what conventional economics predicts. This was exactly what happened when integrated circuits were first introduced, which later led to the earliest microprocessors and solid-state memories. It was a matter of time, before the first microcomputer was designed and built with these new components. The rest, as they say, is history.

In this speech, I explore the possibility that micropower, or small-scale generation, also called distributed generation, can be as deep a game-changer as microprocessors. By deep, I mean changing the rules of the game not only within the industry, but in society as well.

My conclusion: To become a deep game-changer, the energy industry must find a way to scale down, not up, the power units in energy systems, enough to activate the economics of increasing returns to scale and trigger virtuous cycles of greater demand and lower prices.

The full text of the speech may be downloaded here (Can micropower be as deep a game-changer as microprocessing by RVerzola).


Southeast Asia Conference on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) in Alor Setar, Malaysia

The Southeast Asia Conference on the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) will be held May 26-28 in Alor Setar, Malaysia.

Four participants from the Philippines are going: Dr. Carmelita Cervantes of the Central Bicol State University for Agriculture (Pili, Camarines Norte) and SRI Pilipinas coordinator for Bicol, retired director Adelberto Baniqued of the Department of Agrarian Reform Region 9, now SRI Pilipinas coordinator for Western Mindanao, Lala Pablo of the Rice Watch Action Network (RWAN), and myself, as SRI Pilipinas national coordinator.

The full text of the paper I will be presenting, narrating the SRI Pilipinas experience in promoting SRI in the Philippines, can be downloaded here. (RSV SRI paper Malaysia May 2015 final.)

The Switch Off #NoBrownout Luzon Power Situation, updated hourly

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Luzon Power Situation, updated hourly

How Metro Manila can avoid brownouts this summer

How we can avoid brownouts
this summer without spending P450 million

by Roberto Verzola

[The author will launch his book Crossing Over: The Energy Transition to Renewable Electricity this March 23, 2015, 9 a.m., at The Patio of the UP Hotel, at the University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus. The book was published by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung of Germany. The author may be reached at 0939-117-8999 or rverzola@gn.apc.org. See rverzola.wordpress.com for details.]
The government is preparing for a 2015 power crisis. This crisis, according to the testimony of Department of Energy Assistant Director Irma Exconde before Congress last October 2014, is basically a 31-megawatt shortfall in supply for around two critical weeks in April.

The government’s solution is the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), which will subsidize the expenses of large companies who have their own generators, if these have to be run due to impending brownouts. The estimated cost of the ILP program: around P450 million, charged to electricity consumers. (See Jess Diaz, “ILP to cost power consumers P450 M,” Philippine Star, Nov. 21, 2014.)1

March is now ending. Early mornings are still cool, but warming. The truly hot summer can start anytime soon. We probably still have a week or so before the crisis begins to be felt.

Here is a simple way to prevent brownouts from occurring in Metro Manila. Other electric utilities and cooperatives can use the approach too, if at least one TV station covers their service area.

Imagine a screen that shows the available electricity supply in megawatts (MW) as a horizontal line near the top of the screen. Imagine the actual demand, also in MW, tracing another graph on the same screen─in realtime─from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The 24-hour load curve of Meralco in shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Meralco’s 24-hour load curve
meralco load curve
This is not difficult to do. I have seen such displays in the offices of suppliers of electricity. I am sure the Department of Energy can produce such a display.

Now, imagine the trace of the actual demand inching up, as we rise in the morning, turn on some appliances and do our chores. Later in the morning, the graph rises faster, as the people arrive in their offices, turn on the lights, the airconditioning, and their computers, and as factories and workplaces start up machines and other electrical equipment. As the sun rises higher in the sky, more aircons and electric fans are turned on; aircons work harder.

The demand curve is now approaching the horizontal supply curve. The drama is building up.

Now, imagine television stations broadcasting the same screen, and the Secretary of Energy─or the President himself─explaining on TV that each individual can do something to prevent a brownout. They only need to turn off some of their less important electrical loads: lights in unused rooms, along corridors; one of three electric fans, postponing ironing to off-peak hours, and so on. Some will surely respond, especially if a prior media build up had been orchestrated earlier. One million responses─each turning off a 40-watt or so load (one fluorescent or incandescent lamp, one electric fan, or one computer)─is more than enough to cover the 31-MW shortfall.

As the responses come in, the demand curve takes a noticeably less steep path, but it keeps approaching the supply line. The tension is becoming almost unbearable. On radio and TV, the Secretary sends out another desperate appeal. Seeing that their actions did have some effect on the curve, people will respond some more, and urge others to act too. A critical mass of people now realize that it is better turn off some appliances on your own, than lose all power. Text messages fly, urging participation.

Watching the demand curve now feels like watching, live on TV, a typhoon that is about to hit. but it is also swerving, thanks to people’s earlier responses. Thus, more will be encouraged to join in, or to do more. It becomes a challenge, a race against time, or─if you will─a game: do we win or do we lose?

If we win, one can surely imagine a collective cheer in every home and office watching the screen, as if Pacquiao had just scored a knockdown. But this time, it is everyone’s victory.

If we lose, a brownout happens somewhere in the grid, as the system sheds some load to avoid overheating the generating plants. One can imagine hearing a collective sigh throughout the island. But with some loads shed off, the demand will drop below the supply line again; we are back in the game!

Imagine doing this everyday over a two-week period, as we collectively struggle to spare the country from brownouts by pressing one switch and then another, as if we were playing an online game. It will be the greatest drama of the summer break.

With a more sophisticated display, we can make the “game” more interesting (though this is not absolutely necessary).

We can split the grid into four sectors, and split the screen into four too, each quarter of the screen showing the demand curve and supply line for each sector. Only those sectors that fail to turn off enough loads get the brownouts. Now it becomes a contest between sectors too. But everyone can win, if they can, collectively as a sector, manage to swerve away from the supply line without hitting it.

There is no way this won’t work! This can become our national game every summer.

By the way, this approach is called demand-side management (DSM). The secret here is instant feedback. People can see right away the results of their collective act. If you can see that what you are doing matters, you are bound to do more of it.

Remember: all this needs is for the Department of Energy to set up the screen and the media to broadcast it. The public will do the rest. We will because we do not want to be billed that P450 million .
March 23, 2015

Net energy metering opens the floodgates to solar rooftops and other small-scale renewables

A very effective way of quickly deploying solar photovoltaic (PV) systems is the scheme called net metering, also called net energy metering.

This scheme is now in place in 44 U.S. states, opening the floodgates to rapid solar PV deployment in the U.S. What is being called a “net metering war” is now raging in the U.S., with utilities trying to roll-back net metering, especially its pricing model called parity pricing, which credits solar rooftop owners the full retail price for any surplus they export to the grid.

In some U.S. states, the utilities are succeeding. Here in the Philippines, the utilities won the war even before a single shot was fired, by drafting themselves the “net-metering” rules in the country.

For a review of the net metering debate, and the arguments which show that the utilities position actually leads to the double-charging of their net-metered customers, please download my piece “Net metering opens the floodgates to solar rooftops and other renewables.

Roberto Verzola