Senate hoping to tap EU technical assistance for future power bills

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THE Senate energy committee is in talks with the European Union (EU) for technical assistance ahead of future legislation covering microgrids, waste-to-energy and renewable energy (RE) for the developer’s own use.

Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, committee chairman, said he met earlier this week with representatives from the Access to Sustainable Energy Programme (ASEP), the joint undertaking between the EU and the Philippines’ Department of Energy.

“They are focusing on rural electrification. This is where microgrids and [RE for] own-use will come into play,” he told reporters.

He said more than the offered funding for the program, the Senate was looking at the technical assistance that the EU could offer.

“The entire funding of ASEP is €31 million. This is on staggered basis,” he said.

For the Senate, the more important aspect of the program is the initial phase that offers technical assistance as this covers research. He said that phase would teach legislators technical issues including engineering constraints and concepts to allow them to include these in future legislation.

“Right now, we’re in the process of formulation. The bills that we will be proposing are very technical,” he said.

He recommended to those in “undeserved and unserved” areas of the national power transmission network to look for a qualified third party that can build a microgrid, a small-scale power grid that can operate separately or in line with the area’s main grid.

“And when we say microgrids these include power generation), whether it’s renewable energy or fossil fuel or the traditional thermal, it’s up to them,” he said, adding that the goal is to move these areas away from electric cooperatives.

“We will file a resolution to update us on the nationwide electrification program — where we are, how much more do we need, what technology should we use — to achieve 100% household electrification by 2022,” he said.

He said he was also planning to propose a bill covering waste-to-energy development that would harmonize conflicting provisions with the Clean Air Act “and at the same time untangle the undefined concepts in waste-to-energy.”

He cited as example of an “undefined” concept the issue on the ownership of waste, whether it is owned by the people, the local government or the waste-to-energy proponent.

He said a bill on renewable energy for own-use is meant to encourage more households to enter the distributive generation system. He said issues exist on the formula involved in how small-scale generators are paid when they export power to the grid.

He added that small distributive systems continue to rely on the speed at which the distribution utility could connect them to the wider system. They also go through the lengthy permitting process in the local government bureaucracy.

“So we want to streamline all of those,” he said. — Victor V. Saulon