With the Department of Energy (DOE) going full throttle on President Rodrigo Duterte’s promise to completely energize the nation, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) detailed that there are still road blocks that need to be hurdled to fulfill this dream.
During a senate hearing on Energy yesterday, NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong said that there are a number of factors that have hindered the agency to fully implement its rural electrification program over the years.
“We believe that the barriers for total electrification are the so-called isolated areas, talagang malalayo na. Pangalawa, no road network and difficult terrain. Pangatlo, are the right of way issues. Pang-apat ang peace and order problems at pang-lima ang natural calamities,” Mangsongsong shared during the hearing.
Among these factors, extreme isolation of areas without power and the lack of infrastructure and road network were considered the primary reasons as to why most of the off-grid areas cannot be provided power by local electric cooperatives and distribution utilities.
War and armed conflict also hindered the power infrastructure development in these areas, particularly in Mindanao. Natural calamities also aggravated the situation.
“Napagalitan kami minsan kasi mabagal daw ang mga electric cooperatives na mag-reenergize ng mga households pero noong pinuntahan ng mga electric cooperatives ang mga nabagyo, paano daw sila mag-energize? Wala na ang mga bahay nila at nalipad na,” Masongsong said.
According to DOE’s Distribution Development Plan for 2017 to 2026, the Philippines has over 22.63 million households – 13.34 million of which are served by electric cooperatives, 7 million are under the Manila Electric Company’s (Meralco) franchise area, and 2.3 million are subscribed under privately owned/local government controlled utilities.
Of this number, 2.12 million households are still without power. Under the electric cooperatives, 1.61 million homes are still left unserved, or at 87.92 percent of the electrification level. The privately owned/local government controlled utilities have 360,000 households or 85.05 percent that need to be provided electricity. Meralco currently has the highest electrification level at 97.7 percent or 160,000 households and has declared in reports that it will continue to improve its statistics to serve their franchise.
Earlier in the hearing, DOE Energy Power Industry Management Bureau director Mario Marasigan told the committee that the energy department has already submitted a proposed executive order to the president in response to his call to provide electricity services to “unviable, unserved, and underserved areas.”
The EO aimed to create a task force and technical working groups that will determine the solutions to the various barriers to the country’s complete electrification.
Marasigan also said that the DOE was issuing a department order but this might cause some potential difficulties in the implementation as it will run in conflict with awarded franchises of different distribution utilities and local electric cooperatives.
Given these electrification challenges and administrative constraints, Senate Committee on Energy chair Sherwin Gatchalian called all government agencies involved in the electrification process to come up with a unified strategy for household level electrification.
“The residents of those areas are suffering, they’re suffering because of no electricity or because no power or whatsoever is going into their homes. So what we want to do right now is eliminate that suffering by energizing those areas,” Gatchalian said.
“The sooner we can get a strategy in place, the better for our people. Identify and look for legal basis to do away with the constraints in order to achieve 100 percent household electrification,” the senator added.