Probe on solar subsidies pushed

By Myrna M. Velasco – February 5, 2017, 10:00 PM

from Manila Bulletin

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy wants an extensive investigation on the alleged improprieties committed in the validation and award of feed-in-tariff (FIT) subsidies in some solar projects under the government’s second wave of solar farm installations.

The questionably-validated solar projects will form part of the P18.451-billion FIT differential  (inclusive of cost under-recoveries) that will be squeezed from Filipino consumers’ pockets and paychecks this year via the FIT-Allowance line item in the electric bills.

“That should be investigated thoroughly – in the name of fair play and transparency, that should be investigated properly,” Senate Committee on Energy Chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian told energy reporters.

He noted the Department of Energy (DOE) which bestowed the certificates of endorsements (COEs) for the FIT-qualified solar projects must guarantee that it had not extended any “form of patronage or discrimination” to any of the project sponsors.

“There might be some developers and proponents that were favored, that is not appropriate because what we want right now is to demonstrate to the industry that this is a transparent and fair industry so we can attract more players,” the lawmaker stressed.

For now, he indicated that he would want the review being undertaken by the energy department to see the “light of day” first, adding that “we’ll see what the outcome of their investigation is, but I would support their investigation.”

A November 8, 2016 letter of the Energy Regulatory Commission to the DOE had concealed some alleged inconsistencies in the project validation and grant of COEs for FIT incentives by the energy department’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau (REMB).

In that correspondence, the regulatory body specified two projects – Enfinity Phils Renewable Resources Inc. and Solar Powered Agri-Rural Communities – not being able to reach the required 80-percent completion level, but were qualified for FIT incentives.

The wrangle over the award of FIT subsidies had not stopped at that though because the new National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) subsequently intervened and sought for fast-tracked approval of 17 solar FIT-certificates of compliance.

The muddle had gone deeper when it was unearthed in the review process that requirements to project completions had also been allegedly “tweaked” during the validation process.