By Myrna M. Velasco – January 16, 2017, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin
With a push from the newly installed chairman of the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) but without the knowledge of Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, two solar projects with questionable levels of completion will now benefit from feed-in-tariff (FIT) subsidies to be shouldered by Filipino consumers in their electric bills for long 20 years.
This has been based on the recent approval of the four Commissioners of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on the FIT-certificate of compliance (COC) of 17 new solar projects that will form part of the higher FIT-Allowance (FIT-All) rates to be passed on in the rates. It must be noted that the ERC had written Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi in November last year, informing him that the solar projects of Enfinity Phils Renewable Resources Inc. in Clark with 22.33-megawatt capacity and that of Solar Powered Agri-Rural Communities Corp. in Zambales with 5.02MW capacity seem to have not reached the prescribed 80-percent completion level as of the enforced March 15, 2016 cut-off for the second wave solar race to be incentivized with P8.69 per kilowatt hour (kWh) FIT.
The DOE has been reviewing and re-validating data on project completions based on the certificates of endorsement (COEs) that the previous energy department leadership had forwarded to the ERC.
But while it is still winding up its review process of the data on solar projects’ completions, NREB had to tug its way into the picture and sought for immediate approval of the FIT-COCs of 17 solar projects. It must be noted though that the endorsement of FIT-COCs for renewable energy projects resides with the DOE and not in any way a function or mandate of the NREB.
NREB Chairman Jose M. Layug Jr. made this particular request in a letter dated December 8, 2016 addressed to ERC Commissioners Geronimo D. Sta Ana, Alfredo J. Non, Gloria Victoria Yap-Taruc and Josefina Patricia M. Asirit who also subsequently approved and issued the FIT-COCs of the solar projects. ERC Chairman Jose Vicente B. Salazar was on leave at that time.
Layug, in that same correspondence, has stipulated that his request was “consistent with the data and slides presented during our meeting (of December 5, 2016), I re-affirm that the 17 solar power projects were endorsed to ERC for the issuance of the FIT eligible COCs upon their full compliance with the technical and administrative requirements of DOE Department Circular. No. DC2013-05-009.” The same request was reportedly re-stated by Layug in a ‘speaker phone conversation’ with Commissioner Taruc in the presence of the three other Commissioners, as documented in an ERC Commission meeting in December.
When asked on this, Cusi categorically stated that he was not aware of the move taken by Layug and that while he never wanted to meddle in the function or approval processes of the ERC, he at least expected that they had given credence to the ongoing review of the solar projects being undertaken by the DOE. Their timeline is actually to complete the process this month.
“My stand has always been: I respect the independence of the ERC and they can act on the FIT-COC applications based on their mandate and evaluation. However, if they had seen that there are some concerns that shall be referred back to the DOE based on the COEs submitted by the past administration, I told them they can revert that to us and we will review them and we will act accordingly…and they actually sent us a letter informing us on particular projects, so we have been re-evaluating data,” he stressed.
The other two problematic projects but were not given COCs yet have been that of the 41.3MW Majestics Energy Corporation; and 6.23MW NG Vogt Philippines Solar Energy ventures. Altogether, the 22 solar ventures with FIT-COCs now hover at 478.42 megawatts – combined for those in the first and second round of installations.2 solar projects given FIT incentives