July 26, 2017, 2:30 am
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ERC to investigate solar subsidy award

The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) said it will investigate the second phase of subsidy awards for solar projects after participants complained of “irregularities.”

“We will investigate because stakeholders are forcing the Department of Energy (DOE) to make a clear stand, saying DOE was not transparent enough in awarding the feed in tariff (FIT),” said Alfredo Non, ERC commissioner.

FIT is the rate the government assures solar energy providers will be paid on top of their being the priority in joining the wholesale electricity market.

Non said while investigation is ongoing, only “regular COCs (certificates of compliance) will be given to those who applied for FIT-COCs.” 

A COC is needed before a power plant can start commercial operations. It is a certificate that says operators can produce safe and dependable energy. A FIT-COC, on the other hand, allows FIT-certified plants to collect their fixed power rates under the law.

FIT-eligible plants are assured of fixed rates, currently at P9.68 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the first batch of solar projects and P8.69 per kWh for the second batch.

The Philippine Solar Power Alliance (PSPA) complained the DOE “deliberated far too long” in announcing those who qualified for the second phase of FIT. 

Since the game to qualify for the FIT is a “race,” first to be operational gets the subsidized rate, many companies were operational before the deadline of March 15, 2016.

But PSPA complained the DOE released the names of the qualified companies late in June or three months after the deadline.

The stakeholders then said the choice was not “transparent enough and took too long.” They feared that “irregularities” could have happened.

They also complained that far too many participants who joined the race did not qualify.

The stakeholders said the “race” format led to oversubscription – an event they said was caused by the government.

Non said ERC will be waiting for DOE’s final say on the issue. ERC will verify information submitted by involved companies, such as the dates that are crucial to be qualified under the FIT.

Last June, a total of 17 projects with an overall capacity of 417.05 megawatts (MW) were identified by the DOE to be qualified for the second round which now brings the total capacity of solar projects benefitting from FIT at 525.95 MW.

Among the biggest plants that were included in the list are the 132.5 MW of Helios Solar Energy Corp. in Negros Occidental, 63.3 MW of Solar Philippines in Batangas and the 50.07 MW of PetroSolar Corp. in Tarlac.

Other projects that were included in the list are the 2.04 MW from Absolut Distillers Inc., 2.66 MW from the second phase of Energy Development Corp., 5.02 MW from Solar Powered Agri-Rural Communities Corp., 6.23 MW from Vogt Philippine Solar Energy One Inc., 8.5 MW from Valenzuela Solar Energy Inc., 10.26 MW from First Cabanatuan Renewable Ventures Inc., 10.49 MW from Asian Greenergy Corp., 13.14 MW from RASLAG Corp., 14.51 MW from YH Green Eenrgy Inc., 15 MW from Bulacan Solar Energy Corp., 18 MW from Monte Solar Energy Inc., 20 MW from Mirae Asia Energy Corp., 22.33 MW from Enfinity Philippine Renewable Resources Inc. and 23 MW from San Carlos Solar Energy Inc. phase three.

In the first round of FIT for solar, seven solar plants with a total capacity of 108.9 MW were approved with a higher incentive rate.

Industry sources have said as much as 800 MW of solar projects were developed in hopes of being qualified under the said incentive but only the first 500 MW were included.

The PSPA already suggested to government for it to move away from its current race setup in awarding FIT incentives to avoid oversubscription like what was experienced by the solar power industry.

“The build first policy is structured for an oversubscription because once you do not control the issuance of the contracts from the beginning, the oversubscription is inevitable. There has to be a review of the build first. FIT 2 (for solar is) a glaring example of how the effect of build first really hit investors,” said Tetchi Capellan, PSPA president.

As of first half of the year, the total installed capacity of solar power plants is at 684 MW, a 314.5 percent growth compared to the previous year’s 165 MW.
 
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