THE Department of Energy (DoE) is asking interested parties to comment on a draft circular that provides a national policy framework for smart grids and a “roadmap” for distribution utilities.

The move comes as distribution utilities have come up with their own initiatives to introduce smart grids that use innovative technologies to modernize the electric grid infrastructure.

The DoE said it saw a need to transform the Philippine power sector into “a secure, stable, flexible, sustainable, digitally enabled and interoperable system that provides reliable, efficient, and quality energy towards grid modernization and consumer empowerment.”

Under the proposed circular, the department has adopted several criteria for transitioning the power system into a smart grid by 2040: safety/reliability; efficiency; flexibility/sustainability; resiliency; and consumer empowerment.

The DoE said it hopes the Philippines will reach a level of smart grid development capable of “self-healing” and responding to recent policy issuances on Retail Competition and Open Access (RCOA); Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS); Green Energy Option Program (GEOP); and Net Metering.

The department defines a smart grid as modernized electrical grids that use innovative technology with two-way and/or multi-way communication technologies, real-time monitoring and control systems.

The proposed policy framework anticipates the emergence of smart homes or buildings that are capable of monitoring and control of electricity and energy usage within their premises.

The grid reform plans also come amid the introduction of smart appliances and devices that allow real-time, automated, interactive technologies.

The DoE also expects the greater use of smart meters, or electronic real-time energy-measuring devices that are capable of remote connect/disconnect switching with two-way communication between the meter and the power utility.

Smart meters record consumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less, and communicate the information back to the power utility for monitoring and billing.

The proposed circular applies primarily to distribution utilities, including grid-connected, micro-grids and off-grid systems.

The DoE said if needed, it would coordinate with other government agencies to establish new incentive mechanisms for smart grid development.

It is enjoining the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to promulgate, within six months from the effectivity of the circular, guidelines and to ensure proper and timely implementation of the policies to be set forth.

The proposal instructs the National Electrification Administration to provide concessional loans to smart grid projects of electric cooperatives. — Victor V. Saulon