A CONSUMER group questioned the timing of an increase in approved rates under the Feed-in Tariff allowance (FIT-All) scheme, saying it would unfairly burden ordinary power consumers.
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has approved an additional 8 centavos per kWh rate hike as part of FIT starting April, a time when power rates typically shoot up due to higher demand.
Consumer group CitizenWatch said this would translate to an additional P16 for a household that consumes 200 kWh a month.
FIT-All is a government initiative that aims to jumpstart the renewable energy (RE) sector by granting qualified developers renewable energy sources a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of the electricity they export to the distribution or transmission network.
This scheme excludes the energy utilized from RE plants eligible for one’s own use.
The first tranche of the solar for FIT was at 108.90 megawatts (MW) at P9.68/kWh, while the second tranche had an installation target of 500 MW with an approved rate of P8.69/kWh.
“We understand the clamor for cleaner energy, but we must strike a balance between this and the need to have enough energy to support the country’s development,” said Wilford Wong, CitizenWatch secretary general.
The country’s energy rates are already one of the highest in the region, burdening not just consumers but also discouraging investment, Wong added.
The group also warned against the hype surrounding renewable energy, including high-profile backers like former US Vice President Al Gore, who visited the country recently to help push the campaign.
“The push for renewables is understandable in the context of climate change,” Wong said.
“But we’ve seen from the Negros experience that it’s far from a straightforward solution to our energy needs, especially for a developing country like the Philippines.”
In the push for running solar-powered plants, other renewable sources like geothermal had to give way, making little dent on the supply.
Coupled with higher consumption starting April, the entry of renewable sources can thus alter the frequency of power and result in grid instability, erratic power supply, and brownouts.
“As it is, the country is already playing catch up in putting up much needed power plants,” said Dindo Manhit, president of private think tank Albert Del Rosario Institute.
“The upward economic trajectory that our country is enjoying puts more pressure on the supply of reliable energy and growth will stagnate once this need is not met,” he said.
CitizenWatch has called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to do an inventory on the fitness of each power plant in preparation for the summer months and to educate the public on energy saving tips in order to mitigate the expected electricity hikes.
FIT is one of the policy mechanisms eyed by the DOE as it aims to maintain the share of RE in the country’s power mix to at least 30 percent.
Energy Secretary Zenaida Y. Monsada explained that the DOE is mere implementer of the law, which in this case is the renewable energy law.
“You can’t convert the energy by just staring at the sun,” Monsada said.
She said renewable energy is indigenous; it has benefits which cannot be seen right away especially if you are not a beneficiary area but it has many benefits. And reducing rates fall under the ERC, not under the DOE.
She added that the mandate of DOE is to have anindigenous supply of energy with can ensure that the country has diverse supply.
“When you have your own supply, you are not dependent on importation and on finite resource. With this, many Filipinos benefit and you can use your own resources,” she said.
The DOE highlights that FIT subscriptions for RE resources have significantly increased to 806.82 MW from 646.65 MW installations since the start of 2016.
FIT subscriptions to date are as follows: biomass has 11 power plants with a total capacity of 94.25 MW; hydro has four, accounting for 26.60 MW; and wind has six, accounting for 393.90 MW.
Meanwhile, as of 15 March 2016, the DOE has issued Certificates of Endorsement for FIT Eligibility (COE-FIT) to 11 solar power plants, accounting for 292.07 MW, to the ERC.
More solar power projects may be issued such certificates at the completion of the ongoing validation and assessment of the submissions received by the DOE in relation to the 15 March 2016 deadline for the expanded FIT for solar.