PHILIPPINE SOLAR AND STORAGE ENERGY ALLIANCE, INC. (PSSEA) condemns House Bill granting nationwide franchise to ‘Solar Para Sa Bayan’:

Group says it will continue to fight and oppose unjust and unconstitutional franchise

The Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance, Inc. (PSSEA) recently condemned House Bill 8179, which aims to grant a nationwide franchise to Solar Para Sa Bayan.

In a statement, the group claimed that “With over 5 million Filipinos still living without electricityand with the increasing impact of climate change, there is absolutely no justifiable reason for our policymakers and legislators to restrict the expanding renewable energy industry from developing solar, wind, hydro and biomass as sources of energy that will bring light to missionary areas throughout the country.”

The group however pointed out that “unfortunately, House Bill 8179 proposes to grant to only one entity – Solar Para Sa Bayan - a monopoly that will capture the entire electric power value chain (generation, transmission, distribution and supply) with no limitation as to the capacity of the systems it can install or the service area it will cover.”

PSSEA highlighted their grave dismay that in fact, HB8179 grants the right to access any transmission or distribution system without any reciprocal obligation on its part, specifically compliance to existing and relevant laws and rules. The group further pointed out that it is noteworthy to cite that no franchise obligation, during its franchise term, is imposed upon Solar Para sa Bayan to ensure full electrification for all.

The group also vehemently pointed to the alarming lack of regulation surrounding Solar Para Sa Bayan if indeed their plans push through and the House Bill 8179 succeeds. They stated that “despite all fiscal and tax incentives provided in the Proposed Franchise, there is nothing in the House Bill that regulates the activities of Solar Para Sa Bayan. There are no impositions on performance or service requirements that would ensure the achievement of its objective to provide electricity in un-served and un-energized localities. More alarming is the provision exempting Solar Para Sa Bayan from the regulatory powers of the Energy Regulatory Commission.”

Members of the Philippine Solar and Energy Storage Alliance, together with the Organization of Socialized Housing Developers of the Philippines (OSHDP), Center for Renewable Energy and Science & Technology (CREST), Renewable Energy Association of the Philippines (REAP), and Confederation of Solar Developers in the Philippines (CSDP) proclaimed their unity in strongly opposing the passage of HB 8179, reemphasizing their opposition to the proposed bill as it violates the constitutional provision of fair and unequal treatment for all.

As one voice, the different groups all held that they are companies and organizations committed to sustainable development through the expanded use of renewable energy, but that they “are deeply troubled and alarmed by HB8179 because it effectively grants a monopoly and exempts one private company from the rules of competition and oversight provided under EPIRA and the RE Act.”

Also, on a mere legal basis, the group already believes there is no legal necessity to grant Solar Para Sa Bayan a nationwide franchise since there are existing regulatory framework allowing any entity – whether private or public, including LGUs and NGOs, to participate in the provision of electricity in un-served or un-energized areas.

PSSEA explained that “Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) already lays down the legal requirements for any entity to participate in the generation and supply sectors. All generators and suppliers of electricity in contestable markets do not need any national franchise. The supply rules already in place provide that the prices to be charged by suppliers are not subject to the regulation of the ERC.”

Additionally, the EPIRA covers unserved and missionary areas specifically allowing Qualified Third Parties (QTP) to supply and distribute electricity to un-energized communities. The group criticized the House Bill, arguing that “killing competition and creating a monopoly is not the answer. What is needed is to improve existing rules and streamline the processes in the
application for QTP.”

In summary, PSSEA believes that solar energy has already achieved parity. Healthy competition in the last 15 years enabled renewables like solar energy to be available at increasingly lower costs for all consumers. Granting monopoly to Solar Para Sa Bayan threatens consumers welfare. Above all, the group believes it is discriminatory, and violates the constitutional principle of fair and equal treatment.

The group reminded public and government that “the goal of eradicating poverty in the country and providing electricity for all cannot and should not be the sole domain of any one company. Increasing access to clean energy is possible only through sustained, multi-sectoral efforts where everyone operates fairly and transparently – including power developers, network operators, installers, energy tech companies, and other stakeholders who have contributed their time, expertise, and resources to provide electricity to all, especially the poor in remote islands and
other locations.”

In closing, PSSEA declared that “we call on Congress to junk HB 8179. Instead, our policymakers and legislators should craft another bill that promotes fair and healthy competition, fosters reforms and innovations, for Qualified Third Parties in un-served and missionary areas, enablingthe continuing expansion of clean energy projects, broader and more efficient services, and lower electricity rates, especially for unserved and underserved areas.”