ERC asked to probe ‘midnight dispatch’ of solar plants

By Myrna M. Velasco – December 26, 2017, 10:00 PM
from Manila Bulletin

The solar plants logging capacity dispatch at “witching hours” or when the sun is apparently not up at midnight, is a serious matter that the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has been asked to seriously investigate because these may have been adding up to the cost subsidies being passed on to all consumers via the feed-in-tariff allowance (FIT-All) line item in the electric bills.

In a memorandum lodged to the ERC by Manila Electric Company (Meralco), an intervenor in the 2017 Feed-in-Tariff Allowance (FIT-All) application of the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo), it was stipulated that “midnight generation” for solar power plants have been recorded at least three times in August, September and October this year.

The most puzzling of these have been the solar capacity dispatch at 1:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. when there had not even a hue of sun rising – and it was noted that in at least one incident, there was also a typhoon pounding the site of one of the solar plants with registered capacity dispatch.

“It is apparent that solar PV (photovoltaic) generation even during night-time intervals is being reported repeatedly over time,” the utility firm said.

On that premise, Meralco pleaded that “all meter data for energy purportedly delivered by RE (renewable energy) plants must be counter-checked/verified for the purpose of ensuring their accuracy before the same are considered/included in the calculation of amount of FIT-All that would be approved under the instant application as well as the amount of FIT that will be paid to RE developers.”

Nevertheless, according to the market operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), the reported evening generation of solar facilities had been based on forecasts and not the actual metered quantity, being the basis of their FIT payments.

Aside from the evening generation of solar facilities, Meralco similarly questioned the “differing figures” of the ERC and the Department of Energy (DoE) on the capacity installations qualifying for the FIT subsidy.

In its filing with the regulatory body, Meralco cited several biomass and run-of-river hydropower plants with higher installed capacities being factored in into the TransCo’s FIT-All petition.

These include the biomass facilities of Pangea Green Energy Philippines, Inc., Montalban Methane Power Corporation, Bicol Biomass Energy Corporation and Green Earth Enersource Corporation; and the Sabangan and Tudaya hydro facilities of Hedcor, Inc.

“The difference in capacity in said lists, in particular, an increase in the total amount of more than 10MW, is significant as it will contribute to an increase in the FIT-All rate,” Meralco stressed. It added that “the projected RE generation should be determined by using only the approved installed capacity.”

ERC Chairperson Agnes T. Devanadera said they will look into the matter when they will finally evaluate TransCo’s FIT-All application.

As prescribed by rules, “the meter data is the basis for payment of FIT rates to FIT-eligible RE developers,” and it is worth noting that “RE developers are paid per kWh generated as reflected in their respective meters.”

Meralco thus emphasized that “the accuracy of meter data is crucial when it comes to determining the appropriate FIT to which RE developers are entitled to.”