NEA to allow bigger private sector role in rural power

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THE National Electrification Administration (NEA) is drafting a policy to fast-track rural electrification by allowing private sector participation in electricity distribution, especially in remote areas of the Philippines, the agency said on Monday.

“Electric cooperatives should fast-track electrification and should open up through installation of micro-grids, allowing private distribution utilities should they be interested to energize an area, as well as maximizing solar home system and access to sustainable energy program,” said NEA Administrator Edgardo R. Masongsong in a statement, citing his response to a Senate budget inquiry on Thursday.

He said state agency NEA was preparing a policy that would hasten rural electrification to maximize, among others, micro-grid and solar home systems, as well as access to sustainable energy program.

He said the policy will be presented to the country’s 121 electric cooperatives next month.

Last week, Mr. Masongsong said NEA, the government agency tasked to oversee the country’s electric cooperatives, told lawmakers that the agency proposed a budget of P9.63 billion for 2018 but the Department of Budget and Management recommended P4.9 billion as contained in the national expenditure program.

During the hearing, Sen. Loren Legarda, who chairs the Senate finance committee, said private sector participation should be encouraged for the agency to achieve its goal of completing the rural electrification program of the government.

In the same hearing, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on energy, told NEA to take advantage of latest technologies, such as the micro-grid systems, to reach far-flung areas that are not reached by the country’s high-voltage power transmission grids.

The senator said private distribution utilities had expressed interest in building micro-grid systems in areas or sitios left unserved or underserved by the electric cooperatives. — Victor V. Saulon