Power industry stakeholders are concerned over a House bill that awards a nationwide franchise to Solar Para Sa Bayan.
In a join media briefing, members of the Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance (PSSEA), Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association Inc. (Philreca), Organization Organization of Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines (OSHDP), Center for Renewable Energy and Science & Technology (CREST), Renewable Energy Association of the Philippines (REAP), and Confederation of Solar Developers in the Philippines (CSDP) expressed their strong disapproval to the passage of House Bill (HB) 8179.
According to the group, the bill runs against the goal of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001.
“We are deeply troubled and alarmed by HB 8179 because it effectively grants a monopoly and exempts one private company from the rules of competition and oversight provided under EPIRA and the RE (Renewable Energy) Act,” the joint statement read.
“We believe there is no legal necessity to grant Solar Para Sa Bayan a nationwide franchise since there are existing regulatory framework allowing any entity – whether private or public, including LGUs (local government units) and NGOs (non-government organizations), to participate in the provision of electricity in un-served or un-energized areas,” it said.
HB 8179 is proposing to award a nationwide franchise to Solar Para Sa Bayan “to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain distributable power technologies and mini-grid systems throughout the Philippines to improve access to sustainable energy.”
The group said the bill will allow Solar Para Sa Bayan to monopolize the entire electric power value chain, such as the generation, transmission, distribution, and supply; without limitation as to the capacity of the systems it can install or service area it will cover.
“In fact, HB 8179 grants the right to access any transmission or distribution system without any reciprocal obligation on its part, specifically compliance to existing and relevant laws and rules. It is noteworthy to cite that no franchise obligation, during its franchise term, is imposed upon Solar Para sa Bayan to ensure full electrification for all,” the joint statement read.
The bill also excludes Solar Para Sa Bayan from the regulatory powers of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).
“The mere fact they they will not undergo the rate-making methodology of ERC, it’s an incentive for them. How can you measure the correct rate you’re going to charge to consumers. They are not given targets for them to sustain their franchise. They will not go through other processes that is required from DUs (distribution utilities) and ECs (electric cooperatives),” Philreca general manager and executive director Janeene Colingan said.
EPIRA founded the legal requirements for any entity to participate in the generation and supply sectors, which also allows the Qualified Third Parties (QTP) to supply and distribute electricity to power-less communities.
CSDP President Don Dia said there is already a regulatory framework that allows all QTPs to participate in supplying electricity in remote areas.
PSSEA President Ma. Theresa “Tetch” Capellan also responded: “There is already a QTP rule. The answer, we believe, is not a monopolistic response, not granting an entity the monopoly rights to serve SPUG (Small Power Utilities Group) areas. We believe that is not the correct approach.”
She also said the QTP rule should be improved in order to fast-track the electrification of unserved and underserved areas in the country.
“We believe the correct is to review the QTP, tweak it, reform it and accelerate its passage…We believe that there is a solution. If a legislation that reforms the QTP process can be as fast as what they’re doing now to this bill, then they can do it to a new bill of QTP,” Capellan said.
The industry players want the lawmakers to junk the bill. In addition, they will also be fighting against the grant of the national franchise in the Senate.
They warned that if the bill is passed, they will have to file a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the Supreme Court.
“The general sentiment and the general position of the industry is that this bill is not necessary. It subverts the different laws of the country, the different rules that have already been enacted. It returns to the monopolistic behavior that the EPIRA has already abolished. We believe we have a vibrant market and competitive environment in the power sector. It’s not perfect, but it is competitive,” she said.