Cusi backs solar franchise bid
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi yesterday expressed support for a legislative franchise for Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. (SPSB) as he noted that the public’s perception of electric cooperatives needed rethinking.
“I want this to be very clear, the [SPSB franchise] that is being [sought in Congress], to me that is a positive disruptive activity. DOE’s position is we should rethink our mind-set about [cooperatives]. What are the functions of co-ops? They have a franchise in their respective areas. Their franchises [c0me] with responsibilities. They have to energize their entire franchise area,” Cusi said.
SPSB has applied for a non-exclusive franchise to extend its services to other parts of the Philippines that want alternative choices for electric service.
Cusi told reporters a franchise for SPSB was “a positive disruptive activity” as it would help hasten the achievement of the government’s goal of providing electricity to about two million households that do not yet enjoy power services.
The government is aiming at attaining 100-percent electrification by 2022.
“We cannot let Filipinos wait forever. There are efficient cooperatives. There are inefficient cooperatives. Are we going to allow Filipinos to suffer because of inefficient cooperatives? I don’t think that is right,” he said.
SPSB founder Leandro Leviste and the company’s competitors—including rural power distributors —are locked in a publicity war about whether or not Congress should grant SPSB a national franchise.
Electric cooperatives are concerned that a franchise-armed SPSB would enable the company to encroach on their franchise areas.
“The Department of Energy’s position is we rethink our mind-set about electric cooperatives, which have the responsibility to energize all households in their respective franchise areas,” Cusi said.
“But we cannot let Filipinos wait forever—there are efficient cooperatives, there are inefficient cooperatives,” he said. “Are we going to allow Filipinos to suffer because of inefficient cooperatives? I don’t think that is right.”
Cusi said that cooperatives who invoke exclusivity of franchise areas must be willing to take that responsibility.
“If the electric cooperatives cannot do it—provide reliable electricity supply to the underserved and unserved households—somebody [else] will do it,” Cusi said.
“I am not against cooperatives, I am against poor performance,” he said. “There are good co-ops, good performers, but for those not performing, wake up and do your job because people cannot wait in the dark.”
On Tuesday, Leviste said SPSB was already serving five communities across Luzon, where the company previously announced plans to build mini power grids to help address inadequate or non-existent electricity services.
Leviste said these communities were in Dingalan, Aurora; Calayan, Cagayan; Claveria, Masbate; Dumaran, Palawan; and Lubang, Occidental Mindoro.
Leviste and Rep. Arthur Yap (Bohol, 3rd district), who sponsored the proposed law granting SPSB a franchise, earlier said the bill did not provide a monopoly as the national franchise for SPSB was to be non-exclusive, and that the bill encouraged other entities to apply for their own franchises.
SPSB announced last month it was bringing 24/7 power to 12 towns in provinces including Mindoro, Palawan, Masbate, Cagayan and Aurora to benefit 200,000 Filipinos, the first time so many would get electricity at zero cost to the government.
Two of these provinces, Aurora and Cagayan, were among the worst affected by Typhoon “Ompong.”
In Dingalan, Aurora, evacuation centers were powered by SPSB’s mini-grid system, ensuring the town center was energized even at the height of the storm and helping the town achieve zero casualties.
In Calayan, Cagayan, SPSB established a mini-grid to bring 24/7 power for the first time in the town’s history.
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