MANILA Electric Co. (Meralco) is set to distribute electricity to two islands in Quezon and Batangas, within its franchise area less than a year after the Department of Energy (DoE) called out the country’s biggest distribution utility for failing to energize these areas.
“The ceremonial switch-on [in Isla Verde] is scheduled for Friday [Feb. 15],” according to Lawrence S. Fernandez, Meralco vice-president and head of utility economics, said in a text message.
“The hybrid solar-battery power plant, and corresponding Meralco distribution facilities were actually completed in 2017,” he added.
Mr. Fernandez said Meralco was complying with certain government requirements of the local government units (LGU), DoE and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and “guiding customers on the service application process in the interim.”
Mr. Fernandez said Meralco is also ready to serve Cagbalete Island on the Pacific coast of Quezon province.
“The power plant and distribution lines are already in place in Cagbalete Island,” he said earlier.
Cagbalete falls within the jurisdiction of Mauban, Quezon, while Isla Verde is part of Batangas City.
“We are just going through the usual permitting process at the DoE and the ERC,” he added.
Mr. Fernandez said the power system in Cagbalete is a hybrid of solar, battery and diesel energy sources. He said the 30-kilowatt system is sufficient to serve 200 households.
“[In the island of Isla Verde] the power plant is LGU (local government unit)-owned but we partnered with the LGU so that we can have the corresponding distribution lines, and we also talked to the consumers in the island so that their application forms can also be ready,” he said.
He said the capacity of the power system in Isla Verde is 32 kilowatts.
In April, the DoE asked Meralco about why an island under its franchise area remains without reliable power.
DoE Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi wrote Oscar S. Reyes, Meralco president and chief executive officer, on April 6, to note that Isla Verde in Batangas remains among those identified by the department as “unserved or underserved.”
The notification came as DoE was reviewing identified areas for possible operation of third-party electricity providers and Isla Verde, located along the Isla Verde passage on the way to Mindoro island, was among them.
“Since the island is within your franchise area, may we be apprised on the reasons why the island remains unserved by Meralco up to this date,” Mr. Cusi said in his letter.
The review of the areas without power is in line with the DoE’s mandate to look for ways to provide electricity to the unserved and underserved areas at a price lower than the small power utilities group’s (SPUG) true generation cost.
In his letter, Mr. Cusi requested that Meralco submit a proposed electrification plan “with a definite timeline for the said area.” The DoE made a similar query for Cagbalete Island, which at that time was without reliable power supply.
Mr. Fernandez clarified that Meralco had been audited for its service in the Batangas area, which was identified in a recent hearing as among the 17 “unserved and underserved” areas in the Philippines in terms of electrification.
“Similar to the objectives of the franchise, we also target full electrification for all our service areas,” he said.
“We serve one city and two municipalities in the Batangas area,” he said. “The ERC and the distribution management committee already audited Meralco on its performance. We were given a 100% grade and I think customers there in the areas that we serve in Batangas City know that we have been providing world-class service. We think we can continue to provide that world-class service to those consumers,” he said.
Meralco’s controlling stakeholder, Beacon Electric Asset Holdings, Inc., is partly owned by PLDT Inc. Hastings Holdings, Inc., a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc., has interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls. — Victor V. Saulon