Economy



By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor


DoE wants fast track for P3.5-B power projects




Posted on March 13, 2017


THE Department of Energy (DoE) is proposing a threshold of P3.5 billion for power generation ventures to be declared as projects of national significance, a status which frees them from tedious permitting and regulatory hurdles.

However, the project cost will only be secondary to the department’s goals as laid down in the Philippine Energy Plan (PEP), the long-term industry blueprint annually updated by the DoE as called for under Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA).

“It’s the PEP and any of the following,” said Energy Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella in a recent interview, as he emphasized the plan’s precedence over the list of qualifications for a project to be declared of national significance.

These qualifications are part of a proposed executive order drafted by the Energy department. Mr. Fuentebella said the order has been forwarded to the Office of the President and submitted to the Cabinet.

“The PEP is the summary of all the plans that we have,” he said, adding the sub-plans covering power plant development, transmission, distribution, household and missionary electrification as well as plans in securing petroleum products, energy resource development and utilization.

The DoE previously announced the other qualifications to include the projects’ contribution to the country’s economic development, consequential economic impacts and positive impact on the environment, which the DoE said should be “significant.”

The others are the projects’ potential contribution to the country’s balance of payments, their complex technical processes and engineering designs, and significant infrastructure requirements.

“[What these] projects of national significance address is more of a system-wide capacity,” said Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, in an interview on the sidelines of a recent forum on energy issues.

“We’re still studying if it needs to be legislated,” he said, adding that should legislation be needed his team has determine the components to be included.

The others are the projects’ potential contribution to the country’s balance of payments, the complexity of the technical processes and engineering designs, and significant infrastructure requirements.

DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi previously said that among the draft’s key measures is a provision that will “delegate” to the DoE of the responsibility of issuing environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

He said completing a power project takes around five years, which he said should be cut to the shortest time possible.

Among the projects that Mr. Cusi said should qualify as nationally significant is the construction of a transmission facility that will connect the Mindanao grid to the Visayas grid, which is already linked to Luzon.

Privately-owned system operator National Grid Corp. of the Philippines is targeting the linking of the grids by 2020 at a cost of at least P52 billion, but it asked for the help of government agencies to hasten the issuance of relevant permits and the resolution of right-of-way issues.