MANILA ELECTRIC Co. (Meralco) plans to build microgrids outside its franchise area to serve communities that remain without access to electricity, its president said.
“I think we’d start doing this by next year, by 2019,” Oscar S. Reyes, Meralco president and chief executive officer, told reporters.
He said the company had started making preparations for setting up a microgrid, which is a small-scale electricity grid that can be operated independently from the country’s interconnected network of power transmission facilities.
Mr. Reyes identified microgrids as a prospective new business for Meralco, which has a 25-year franchise valid through June 28, 2028 to construct, operate and maintain an electric distribution system.
Meralco serves the cities and municipalities of Bulacan, Cavite, Metro Manila and Rizal, and certain cities, municipalities and barangays in the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Pampanga and Quezon.
Asked about where the planned microgrid would be built, Mr. Reyes said: “Outside the franchise area.”
“We’ve identified some but we’d rather keep quiet because others might beat us to those communities,” he said.
The plan to build a microgrid — or a system with its own power resources, generation and load centers within a defined boundary — is separate from the company’s corporate social responsibility projects, the Meralco official said.
“We are sensitive to the government’s desire to see further energization of un-electrified areas. There are still areas, particularly outside our franchise area, where communities are not yet electrified,” Mr. Reyes said.
The communities that Meralco is looking at are off-grid communities where it could introduce a “hybrid” system such as solar energy with battery storage, or solar together with a small power generation set.
“There will have to be some degree of tariff flexibility,” Mr. Reyes said. “We’d like to play our role in bringing electricity to communities who have not had access [to it] for some time.”
He said Meralco is venturing into microgrids “not as a corporate social giving, which we are doing for un-electrified public schools, but as a business proposition.”
“Within Meralco franchise area, we are already close to 98% electrified,” he said, placing the exact number at 97.8%.
Mr. Reyes said the company is not planning to give up the remaining un-energized households to other power distribution utilities. “We will do what we can,” 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