17 May 2018
Racing against time with limited resources at its disposal, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) tweaked its action plans to illuminate roughly 2.4 million homes that remain in the dark under the franchise areas of electric cooperatives (ECs) nationwide.
The state-owned corporation presented on Wednesday (May 16) its Strategized Total Electrification Program (STEP), which was tailored to meet the 100 percent household energization target of the Department of Energy (DOE) by 2020.
Incorporated in this latest initiative is a petition seeking government assistance to grant all service-oriented distribution utilities access to funds generated by the Universal Charge for Missionary Electrification (UCME).
The proposed measure aims to provide ECs, which are non-stock and non-profit by nature, enough wherewithal to develop energization projects and sustain their operations in far-flung and economically unviable areas.
In case this request is denied, a private sector participation can be entertained through possible amendments to the Qualified Third Party (QTP) mechanism of the DOE, according to NEA Deputy Administrator for Technical Services Artis Nikki Tortola.
“Kung hindi kaya ng EC na maka-draw ng UCME, baka pwedeng maghanap tayo ng partner on a certain area and then we create a joint venture on that location to serve that area,” Tortola said in a recent dialogue with some 223 power co-op officials.
The NEA will also ask the DOE to expand the scope of its Nationwide Intensification of Household Electrification (NIHE) program, hoping it can include the extension of secondary lines to distant houses, instead of cutting it short.
Likewise, the state-run agency will push for the streamlining and simplification of administrative requirements and processes with respect to permits and other clearances that need to be secured before any electrification related projects can proceed.
The NEA, moreover, vowed to facilitate the implementation of light detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology to determine which type of renewable energy resources are suitable to power up specific unenergized areas.
“We also consider the option of bringing the households to the last tapping pole rather than construct to each and every far-flung household. Kung pwede, it should be part of the local government program na ilapit na ‘yung mga tao sa distribution system,” Tortola added.
Essentially, STEP is a holistic approach combining the merits of sitio energization, barangay line enhancement and household electrification programs of the government under a unified strategy to achieve the total electrification goal.
At its core, subsidies to EC undertakings, including future solar home and micro-grid systems to be put up in far-flung and off-grid communities will still continue should they remain largely ignored by the private sector.
“The total electrification will not be a program in coordination with the ECs alone. It will be a composite program together with the private distribution utilities kasi kasama na sila sa mandate na dapat ma-energize lahat by 2022,” Tortola said.
In view of these developments, Administrator Edgardo Masongsong said he expects all ECs to submit their updated comprehensive master plans to the NEA by May 21. These will be consolidated and forwarded to the DOE for its consideration on May 30 before it finalizes the unified strategy on total electrification that will be presented to both Houses of Congress for budget deliberation.
To date, the NEA through its partnership with 121 ECs in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao has energized more than 12 million households. About 19,740 sitios, however, are still left without electricity connection. Most of which are identified in hostile areas.
On the average, electrifying a sitio costs at least P1.4-million, so the agency will need at least P25-billion to fully implement the rural electrification program before President Rodrigo Duterte steps down from Malacañang. NEA