THE Department of Energy (DoE) committee evaluating the process of endorsing solar projects for the 20-year guaranteed rate under the feed-in-tariff (FiT) system has released its findings without resolving the claims of those left with unviable solar farms.

In a 12-page report, excluding attachments, members of the panel said their study “revealed several challenges” in the implementation of the FiT guidelines. They came up with 10 recommendations, including directing the department’s legal services to respond to all pending inquiries as to the basis for exclusion of projects from the solar FiT.

The order to the legal team was meant to “resolve with dispatch” the pending legal actions before the department, and to determine whether the petitioning project qualified before the March 15, 2016 deadline, and within the 500-megawatt (MW) installation target.

The FiT system offers guaranteed payments on a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for 20 years for emerging renewable energy sources in a “first to build, first to FiT” race. Electricity consumers who are supplied with electricity through the distribution or transmission network share in the cost of the FiT through a uniform charge per kWh. That charge is used to pay the solar power developers.

In its report, the panel recommended that the DoE’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau (REMB) strictly comply with the timeline within the FiT eligibility guidelines “for the timely issuance of the required certificates and issuances.”

“In lining up the permitting, it must, therefore, be necessary that all documentary requirements are deemed to have been secured prior to the authority to connect. This protects the process as well as the integrity of the grid, which we are now seeing as a very important consideration in allowing intermittent renewable energy resource to connect,” the committee said.

It recommended that the REMB be directed to coordinate with the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines and the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. in providing the complete checklist of documents that will be used as the basis for issuing an authority to connect.

The DoE committee also recommended tweaks in the definition of terms, including aligning them with those used by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to prevent confusion.

“For policy consideration, it is recommended to change the word ‘Successful Commissioning’ of Sec. 6 (e) of Department Circular 2013-05-0009 to ‘Commercial Operation’ since what is endorsed to the ERC for FiT Eligibility are those projects which attained commercial operation,” it said.

The committee’s report was requested by the Senate energy committee in a hearing late last year. Some solar power developers received a copy of the report.

In June 2016, the DoE endorsed seven solar projects to receive a rate of P9.68 for each kWh they feed into the electricity distribution or transmission network, while 17 others are to get P8.69 per kWh, ending speculation about the outcome of its installation target for the renewable energy.

The 24 solar projects that were endorsed to receive the guaranteed FiT were developed by 20 companies, which in all have installed 525.95 MW or 25.95 MW more than the department’s target of 500 MW.

Former Energy secretary Zenaida Y. Monsada said that the 500-MW installation target was exceeded by around 300 MW. She left to the current administration the resolution of the rate for those that failed to make it to the DoE list. — Victor V. Saulon