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Energy panel chief eyes law on microgrids in power-unserved, underserved areas.

THE chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy is looking at a law that allows microgrid operations in unserved and underserved areas.

'We're also in the process of filing for microgrid in unserved and underserved areas. This is a law that will allow microgrid to operate in unserved and underserved areas,' said Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian.

Microgrid is a small-scale power grid that can be operated independently of the country's interconnected network of power transmission facilities. It can connect and disconnect from the national grid so it can operate in both grid-connected or island mode.

The Manila Electric Company (Meralco), Solar Para sa Bayan (SPB) and other private firms are allowed to establish microgrids in areas within the franchise territory of electric cooperatives (ECs), particularly those that fail to comply with their mandate in energizing the areas assigned to them. The Department of Energy (DOE) has warned ECs to comply or risk cancellation of their franchise.

'The DOE will determine other measures for the underserved. For us, areas with less than 24/7 service are underserved. Many areas in Palawan are underserved. Mircrogrid can be provided in those areas,' said Gatchalian.

Meanwhile, areas without electricity at all are considered unserved areas.

The DOE allows qualified third-party (QTP) providers to bid for unserved and unviable areas. However, the DOE said it plans to bid out a number of unserved and underserved areas through the QTP selection.

In the case of SBP, which is seeking franchise to construct, install, establish, operate and maintain distributable power technologies (DPTs) and minigrid systems, Gatchalian said it can still participate.

'Solar Para sa Bayan can still join. Our objective is to even the playing field, so that those with a microgrid can have one operator that can come in, without need of a franchise,' explained Gatchalian.

SBP's franchise application is pending for second reading at the Senate, despite strong opposition from various groups who cited legal and constitutional issues, and warned that SBP's template is monopolistic.

Separately, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) is crafting rules on microgrids. It is now in the process of including in the draft rules a transition period within which the private sector can enter areas within the franchises of ECs.

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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Apr 8, 2019
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