Meralco forms RE unit

by Lenie Lectura – December 21, 2015

from Business Mirror

THE Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) has formed a renewable-energy (RE) unit called MSpectrum, which “aspires” to initially install 100 megawatts (MW) of solar power within the utility firm’s franchise area.

“It’s MSpectrum,” said Meralco President Oscar S. Reyes, when asked if the utility firm has already created an RE unit, a plan first divulged by Meralco Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinn in July.

“Over three years, our aspiration is build 100 megawatts,” said Reyes, who added that the RE unit’s thrust is to develop solar power. “We’d like to focus on supporting solar rooftop within our franchise area without prejudice into other areas.”

Meralco distributes electricity in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite and Rizal, as well as parts of Batangas, Laguna, Quezon and Pampanga.

Meralco customers stood at 5.7 million at end-September this year, with almost 168,000 new customer accounts since September 2014. Residential customers represent 92 percent and commercial customers account for 8 percent of total customer count. “We’re targeting maybe bigger commercial and industrial users for this,” Reyes added.

Meralco Senior Vice President for Customer Retail Services Alfredo S. Panlilio said last month that Meralco’s impending entry in RE could lead to possible partnerships with local and foreign entities already involved in the RE space.

“Given the global developments on RE and especially solar, Meralco is itself interested in exploring partnerships with local and global players,” he said. “We think that the RE space will grow, and we want to be part of that growth.”

Renewable source of power include solar, wind, biomass, ocean, geothermal and run-of-river hydro. Meralco’s immediate interest is in solar.

“We are eager to get into solar, but with an electrical engineer’s eye out for ensuring the continued safe and reliable operation of the distribution grid,” Panlilio said.

Aside from solar panels, Pangilinan earlier said his group is also eyeing venturing into battery storage. “Eventually, that will be part, because you have to store the power. We will just install the solar panels first,” he said.

Pangilinan is mindful of the technological development capable of disrupting Meralco’s business model.

“I think the fact that Meralco will enter the solar market signifies that we will disrupt. We think it is a future threat. So, we will be the first to disrupt ourselves because if we don’t do it, others will do it for us. So, rather than have somebody kill us, we might as well kill ourselves because it will be more fun,” he said.

Pangilinan added that these developments would translate to shifts in the energy mix, with growing penetration of renewables potentially at grid parity.

“They will also lead to new ways of defining the quality of services, and of creating value for the customer, enabled by a smart or smarter grid,” Pangilinan said.