For cheaper electricity Inquirer Opinion

The furious controversy about the national franchise sought by a private company to set up mini-grids on solar energy throughout the country can only be expected.

What we do not want is that the debate confuses the real objective of this company, namely the provision of cheaper electricity, especially in areas without electricity or the expensive services of inefficient suppliers.

Solar Para sa Bayan Corp., founded by Leandro Leviste, son of Senator Loren Legarda, is looking for a government permit to set up small solar-powered grids to bring electricity to unguarded areas and competition – hopefully the prices will lowering – stimulating in other rural areas.

It is initially aimed at 12 rural cities to help 200,000 Filipinos. It already supplies electricity to cities in Mindoro, Palawan, Masbate, Cagayan and Aurora and aims to serve half a million Filipinos in cities that are looking for better electrical services by mid-year.

As expected, electrical cooperatives have registered strong resistance; they see Leviste's company as an invasion of their franchise areas.

The Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (Philreca) has claimed that Leviste's initiative to secure a national franchise from Congress is in violation of the provisions of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). The block also has allies in Congress.

A group of legislators filed Home Resolution No. 2182 last month calling the rules committee to return to the legislative franchise panel. 8179, that Solar Para sa Bayan wants to grant a franchise for its solar minigrid projects. The group argued that the approval of the committee report was "railroaded".

Existing power cooperatives, which receive government subsidies for their operations, have challenged Solar Para sa Bayan to focus on areas such as Sulu and other non-tiled cities.

Fair enough; Leviste's business must focus on supplying electricity to non-viable, non-served or unreserved areas that a franchise distribution network, such as members of Philreca, would not be able to maintain.

But on the other hand, why should it not be allowed in areas where electricity costs have become too great a burden for consumers who have no choice but the power monopoly in their district?

Malacañang should consider public support for the bill. The National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms Inc. for example, since electric services in the provinces have remained poor and expensive seventy years after the entry into force of the Epira law, new measures have to be taken to comply with the law, which is to make as much Filipino as possible. electricity.

The fear of creating a monopoly is also unfounded. On the contrary, the presence of such new technology will create competition in areas where services are inadequate.

As Vice-President Arthur Yap, main sponsor of HB 8179, indicated, the measure was specifically designed to break the existing monopolies of traditional utilities that have lagged behind in improving the quality of their services due to a lack of competition.

Leviste himself noted that the text of the bill speaks for itself: it is not exclusive, encourages others to request the same, and aims to put an end to the existing inefficient monopolies on electricity by giving consumers new choices for better and cheaper services. It does not cost any costs on the part of the government.

Leviste has a point in his riposte to his critics: if, instead of trying to avoid competition, utilities focus on lowering costs and improving their activities, then Filipinos will be satisfied with their electrical service, and there will be no need for Solar Para sa Bayan at all.

What is wrong with giving a private right to the non-exclusive right to make small solar panels at no cost to the government?

It will provide consumers, particularly in rural areas, with an alternative supplier of electricity and perhaps pave the way for more competition in the energy sector, which in turn will hopefully reduce prices.

The countering of new initiatives such as this will only institutionalize the inefficiency of electricity companies, to the continuing disadvantage of Filipino consumers.

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