Bill on new choices for power gains support

Published September 24, 2018, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Consumers are in overwhelming support for House Bill (HB) 8179, giving Solar Para Sa Bayan the non-exclusive right to construct Solar-Battery Minigrids at zero cost to government, offering Filipinos an alternative choice for electricity and paving the way for more competition in the power industry.

Solar Para Sa Bayan is a company on a mission to bring cheap, clean, reliable electricity to improve lives of Filipinos. It is already bringing 24/7 power to towns in Mindoro, Palawan, Masbate, Cagayan, and Aurora, and aims to serve 500,000 Filipinos in 2018, in towns that want better electric service.

Over 20 towns have already passed resolutions in support of its Minigrid projects, after conducting public consultations across the country. Over 100,000 Filipinos have signed petitions in support of HB 8179, and consumer groups have come to the bill’s defense amid opposition from existing power suppliers threatened by the advent of competition.

In a statement, National Association of Electric Consumers Executive Director Atty. Rafael Acebedo said “the fact electric service is still so poor and costly, 17 years after EPIRA, shows current measures have failed. Solar Para Sa Bayan should be thanked for fulfilling the intent of EPIRA, which consumers have long waited for. We hope this wakes up the power industry, and leads to more reforms that will benefit the people, instead of institutionalizing the inefficiencies of electric utilities.”

The Palueños Solar Power Electric Consumers Association, represented by Jeffrey Huertas expressed their gratitude to Solar Para sa Bayan.

In June, a Pulse Asia survey indicated 82 percent of Filipinos favor having new options for electric service providers. According to Pulse Asia Director Ana Maria Tabunda, support for new electric service providers is consistent across all ages, classes, and geographies, with ratings in favor at 88 percent in NCR, 78 percent in Luzon, 84 percent in Visayas, and 83 percent in Mindanao. Pulse Asia also found 60 percent of Filipinos are dissatisfied with electric prices, and 89 percent of Filipinos favor increasing the use of renewable energy.

During the August 29 public hearing of the bill in the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, national government agencies expressed their unanimous support. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Gerardo Erquiza said: “We must invite the private sector into rural electrification. We have a subsidy system, and it has always been the government in the forefront. If there is an option that is no cost to the government, that would be very good.”

Solar Para Sa Bayan President Leandro Leviste said, “The text of the bill speaks for itself: It is non-exclusive, encourages others to apply for the same, and aims to end the existing monopolies on electricity, because we believe consumers deserve new choices for better service at lower cost. It also incurs zero cost to government, and eliminates the need for billions in subsidies to existing utilities.”

Leviste added, “Solar Para Sa Bayan only targets areas where consumers complain about electricity. If, instead of trying to prevent competition, utilities focused on lowering costs and improving service, then Filipinos would be satisfied with their electric service, and there’d be no need for us at all.”