A SENATE bill aims to speed up rural electrification by boosting the development of microgrid systems by accredited developers, imposing sanctions on bureaucratic delays and lifting the requirement of securing waivers from franchise-holding utilities.

In a statement Friday, Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said Senate Bill No. 175 or the “Microgrid Systems Act” creates a streamlined process for microgrid service providers (MSPs). The bill aims to provide reliable electric services to households and accelerate total electrification in areas with no electricity access, no distribution system lines, no home power systems, or no connection to any microgrid.

“The government has stated that total electrification in unserved areas cannot be done by traditional grid extension alone and that non-traditional means — such as microgrid systems — are needed. The problem of energy access is also a concern even in ‘electrified’ areas with limited electricity service, or what we call underserved areas,” he said.

Mr. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, said the bill will also level the playing field for system providers.

“The government has tapped the private sector as partner in delivering electricity and improving the quality service in unserved and underserved areas. However, there are significant barriers to entry because of tedious bureaucratic processes, lack of information on prospective areas for electrification, and difficulties obtaining waivers from incumbent utility franchise holders,” he said.

He said generation companies, distribution utilities, retail electricity suppliers, or their respective subsidiaries or affiliates may engage in the business of MSPs, provided that a separate account is maintained for the business undertaking.

He cited figures from the Energy department that as of 2018, up to 2,779,530 households, or 11.7% of the total number of households nationwide, have no access to electricity.

He vowed to prioritize the passage of the bill in the 18th Congress to help the government achieve its goal of 100% household electrification by 2022. The bill is one of 10 priority bills filed by the senator early this month. — Victor V. Saulon