More ‘data defects’ turn up in FIT-backed solar energy projects

By Myrna M. Velasco – January 24, 2017, 10:01 PM

from Manila Bulletin

With the Department of Energy (DOE) stepping up its review of the “validation data” on completion of solar farm developments under the second wave feed-in-tariff (FIT) race, more “data defects” are getting exposed for those projects that were given certificates of endorsement (COEs) for subsidy availments.

Data culled relating to the mandatory registration of projects with the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) had shown some of the flaws and violations that could have disqualified some endorsed projects in the FIT race or the subsidy scheme from consumers’ pockets that could guarantee the revenue stream of solar projects for the next 20 years.

If “data inconsistencies” in the FIT-backed solar projects would not be rectified, some project developers could just be basking in the spoils of regulatory mishaps and would be laughing their way to the banks – but to the misfortune of the exploited Filipino consumers.

As a matter of policy, solar power projects are required to register with the WESM and this is also a primordial requirement before they can set their ‘first dispatch’ and be validated for commercial operation date (COD by the Renewable Energy Management Bureau (REMB) of the energy department.

On this requirement alone, three solar projects with approved FIT certificates of compliance (COCs) were found to have registration with WESM later than their declared commercial operation date – which could have been violation of the rules of the FIT race.

These include the 2.04-megawatt Lian solar power project that had certified commercial operation date (COD) of March 8, 2016 but was only registered with the WESM on March 10, 2016; the 10.26MW Cabanatuan solar power project with COD on March 11, 2016 but its official registration with WESM only happened on March 15, 2016.

Another project, the 5.02MW Palauig solar power project had similar dilemma of WESM registration on March 15, 2016; but its COD was supposed to have been achieved earlier on March 13, 2016.

Relevant industry sources explained that those projects could not have been accorded validation for “commercial operations date” without first securing their WESM registration, because that entailed non-readiness to sell their generated electricity.

Affected players in the solar sector also raised to the DOE their complaints that two projects were sparingly granted fast-track accommodation on the award of their FIT certificates of compliance (COCs). These are the 10.26MW Cabanatuan and 63.3MW Calatagan solar farm ventures which were awarded FIT-COCs on March 11 and 14, 2016 respectively; while the rest of the “race participants” waited until June 10 last year or three months after the prescribed March 15, 2016 cut-off before they were informed as FIT qualifiers.

The award of the latest FIT-COCs for 17 solar projects under FIT2 race had been controversy-ridden because of perceived regulatory cataclysm – primarily because the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) had not waited on the outcome of the data revalidation being undertaken by the DOE and their action had just been based primarily on a request of the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB), an entity which is not the proper authority to defend the authenticity and veracity of data validation in the DOE’s certificates of endorsement.