ENERGY REGULATORS said they are preparing to expedite the permit process for developers of small-scale renewable projects in off-grid areas.
To support electrification efforts, the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) said it is working with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to make policy more investor-friendly.
“We’ve been working with ERC in developing a special set of rules for smaller-capacity RE (renewable energy) for off-grid (areas). At the minimum, a fast-track process for approval, (and) at best, maybe, just a reporting or a notice process. The low-hanging fruit there is a fast-track process with less documentation required,” NREB Chairperson Monalisa C. Dimalanta said in a recent webinar.
Small and large renewable power developers are both required to undergo the same process of acquiring permits from various government agencies to construct their generation facilities, which should not be the case, she said.
“Hopefully, we get to work at it at the ERC level, (and) there’s no need for legislation,” Ms. Dimalanta said in a virtual discussion with the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Two months ago, the Energy Virtual One-Stop Shop (EVOSS) went online. It was a platform created under Republic Act No. 11234 or the EVOSS Act, which streamlines the permitting process of all energy-related projects.
The platform specifically favors large renewable builders whose projects usually take two to seven years before approvals are granted. “For RE in particular, if the agency doesn’t approve your project within the permitted timeline under the regulations, then your permit is deemed approved,” Ms. Dimalanta said.
In June, the Energy and Interior and Local Government Departments issued a joint circular which requires all local government units to implement the EVOSS law, as well as to establish their own energy codes, energy sector committees that will implement policies and programs under their development blueprints, and local energy efficiency and conservation offices. They are also tasked to develop an incentive scheme for energy-efficiency project developers.
The National Electrification Administration (NEA),which is tasked to energize the countryside, has brought power to 123,726 rural villages, or 84% of its targeted 147,989 households, as of June. This equates to 13.85 million consumer connections to date.
This year, it has cut its electrification target to 635 sitios from 964 under its Sitio Electrification Program, as some of its funds were reallocated to the government’s pandemic containment effort. In the first half of 2020, it connected 209,781 households, 15% lower from a year earlier.
NEA said some 12,000 sitios or 1.7 million households remain without power.
For 2021, the government is setting aside P1.6 billion for the electrification program, good for connecting 1,085 villages. The amount is P5.9 billion less than the agency’s proposal. It is appealing for higher funds. — Adam J. Ang