Solar program gains supporters

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Consumers support House Bill 8179 that lends Solar Para Sa Bayan program the nonexclusive right to construct solar-battery minigrids at zero cost to government.

The support presents Filipinos with an alternative choice for electricity and paves the way for greater competition in the power industry.

Solar Para Sa Bayan is a company on a mission to bring cheap, clean, reliable electricity to improve the 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 Rafael Acebedo said: “The fact that service is still so poor and costly 17 years after EPIRA, shows the 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 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, cited the Solar Para sa Bayan program for bringing light and hope to Palueños.

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 pecent in the National Capital Region, 78 percent in Luzon, 84 percent in Visayas and 83 percent in Mindanao.

Pulse Asia also found 60 percent of Filipinos are dissatisfied with electricity prices and 89 percent of Filipinos favor increasing the use of renewable energy.

During the 29 August public hearing of the bill in the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, the national government agencies expressed their unanimous support for the solar program.

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 nonexclusive, 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.”

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