Of the 995 areas managed by different electric cooperatives (ECs) that qualify under the Department of Energy’s (DOE) qualified third party program (QTP), none have been claimed either by ECs or alternative service providers.
“There are 995 areas waived by ECs, but no takers as far as QTP is concerned. There are 11 areas with takers for QTP, but only six are operational,” said National Electrification Administration (NEA) Administrator Edgardo Masongsong.
QTP is one of the DOE’s plans to achieve the 100 percent electrification goal target by 2022.
Interested firms should pass the accreditation process in order to qualify for the QTP electrification program. Qualified QTP firms should have the power generation and distribution facilities to serve remote areas, wherein distribution lines of other power firms cannot be immediately extended. QTP firms can also suggest areas they’d like to develop and implement their plan with DOE’s approval.
QTP is one of the several options to bring total electrification. Among the other options are subsidy, grant or donation, private-sector participation (PSP), and own spending of ECs, Masongsong said.
Masongsong also mentioned the concerns of ECs regarding the entry of private sector in the franchise areas assigned to ECs.
“ECs don’t want to give up their franchise. They don’t want the private sector to take over. They, however, welcome joint venture instead,” said the NEA chief.
He also expressed his approval of the proposal of Solar Philippines to put up solar-battery mini grids in 12 towns.
“I support mini grids,” said Masonsong. “ I will be happy if [it] will participate in the BASULTA [Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi] area because the energization level there is only 33 percent.”
Last week Solar Philippines announced the 12 towns that will be recipients of the program, which are Mindoro, Palawan, Masbate, Cagayan, and Aurora. By the end of 2018, the program aims to bring 24/7 power to 500,000 Filipinos.
“If the mere specter of competition inspires electric utilities to improve their services, that is an affirmation of the need for healthy competition. If the entry of companies like us will end the complacency of incumbent monopolies, then our mission is accomplished,” Solar Para sa Bayan President Leandro Leviste said.
The National Association of General Managers of Electric Cooperatives (Nagmec) challenged the private sector to “prioritize remote, underserved locations first if they were truly sincere about supplying power to the countryside.”
“We accept Nagmec’s challenge, so hope they stop opposing attempts by the private sector to enter these poorly served areas—as we’ve already done in 12 towns. The towns’ requests for better electric service have been ignored for years. Yet now they’re being served by an alternative provider, certain co-ops would prefer these towns [to] have no power at all,” Leviste said.
However, Nagmec’s President Sergio Dagooc warned that it would be hard to do an electrification project without government subsidy.
Leviste responded by saying that Solar Para Sa Bayan is already operating without any government subsidies as it was started as a social mission “not to make the most profit, but to help the greatest number of our fellow Filipinos,” Leviste added.
“What is needed is for the government to allow private investors to use new technologies to serve consumers on a nonexclusive basis.”
Malacañang is reportedly drafting an executive order to encourage private sectors to invest in rural electrification.
Leviste noted: “We believe consumers should be given new choices for better service at lower cost, especially if it means zero government subsidies and does not prejudice the non-exclusive right of anyone else to offer even better options to consumers. A recent Pulse Asia survey showed at least 82% of Filipinos want new options for electric service — so the question is, why would anyone would want to deprive consumers this choice?”
“We can’t see how anyone can object to healthy competition that benefits consumers. Instead of trying to stop the entry of competition, we hope others will focus their energies on making affordable, reliable electricity a reality for every Filipino,” he said.