Despite objections from both solar energy developers and electric cooperatives, the House of the Representatives approved on third and final reading the bill giving Solar Para Sa Bayan Corporation (SPSBC) a nationwide microgrid franchise.
The bill received 198 affirmative votes, seven negatives, and one abstention. As a result, the chamber approved House Bill No. 8179 allowing SPSBC to “construct, install, establish operate and maintain distributable power technologies and minigrid systems.”
SPSBC is an energy distribution company founded by Solar Philippines President Leandro Leviste, the son of Senator Loren Legarda.
With the establishment of microgrids, the company said it will provide power to remote areas in the country.
National Association of General Managers of Electric Cooperatives, Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (PHILRECA), and the Philippine Independent Power Producers Association, Inc. (PIPPA) opposed the SPSBC’s 25-year legislative franchise.
“Passing this bill will burden our countrymen as SPSBC seeks for a franchise which Mr. Leviste can use as his ticket to operate anywhere in the country. Granting a national franchise means that our legislators will allow the SPSBC to circumvent the provisions of the EPIRA (Electric Power Industry Reform Act), and by doing so, will give the SPSBC the permission to undermine the government’s regulatory power in the energy sector,” PHILRECA said last month.
PIPPA noted although electrification of remote areas is a valid concern, granting nationwide franchise to any firm is not the right way to achieve it.
“PIPPA believes that the same may be achieved, without any undue favor or harm, simply through the proper implementation of the EPIRA. The unbridled authority to operate at any capacity, of whatever kind, and in any part of the Philippines, is far too great a privilege for any entity,” the association said.