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REGULATION | Staff Reporter, Philippines

Solar Philippines' mini-grid franchise under scrutiny

Critics of the bill granting the franchise say it could give birth to a monopoly.

A bill granting a PV mini-grid franchise to Solar Philippines is under scrutiny in the Senate for its franchise reach and exclusivity, reports pv tech.

Stakeholders of the renewable energy firm were asked to submit position papers on the latest version of the House Bill 8179. Its discussion will reconvene in May soon after the midterm elections.

The bill tackles Solar Para sa Bayan (SPSB) or Solar for the Country which is an offshoot of Solar Philippines. SPSB focuses on combinations of solar PV, energy storage and diesel generation in both un-electrified areas as well as regions already receiving electricity.

In an interview with PV Tech, Theresa Capellan, president of Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance (PSSEA) said that she was able to get to important revisions added to the bill. Amongst which is to allow the Electricity Regulatory Commission (ERC) to oversee and review any tariff determination put forward by SPSB, and to have the scope of the franchise limited to ‘unserved’ and ‘underserved’ areas as Leviste’s long term vision for the mini-grids will also include supplying towns and even cities.
Meanwhile, the Senate is also looking into other aspects of the bill such as the lack of the definition of unserved or underserved in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

"That is why the inclination of the Senate is to limit to the unserved [areas], because if you go into the underserved then all of these issues will have to be clarified and threshed out,” Capellan explained. “There will be a lot of questions that need to be resolved, but in the unserved [areas] it's pretty straightforward. You don't disrupt any existing contracts."

Moreover, the Senate is also looking into the definition of ‘non-exclusive’ as critics of the House Bill pointed out that it would offer one private PV firm a monopoly. SPSB chief Leviste defended this by highlighting that the franchise is explicitly non-exclusive.

According to Capellan, the industry generally does not support the passing of the bill as it is not in line with the regulatory regime under the EPIRA.

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