THE National Electrification Administration (NEA) said Monday that it will be seeking P16.76 billion worth of additional funding from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) until 2026 for its sitio electrification program, with the goal of powering up more than 11,000 rural villages within that period.

In the 2021 budget, P1.63 billion was earmarked for a sitio electrification program (SEP). The NEA said these funds are only good for energizing 1,085 sitios. At present, 11,174 sitios have no access to power.

“At the rate the SEP projects are ongoing… the NEA will be asking the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to fund an average number of 2,000 sitios until 2026 to finish (the electrification program) with an estimated project cost of P16.761 billion,” the NEA told BusinessWorld by e-mail Monday.

It said the rural electrification program is supported by “inadequate” subsidies for financing rural electrification projects.

Of the 1,085 sitio projects to be funded out of this year’s budget, 413 are in Luzon, 262 sitios in the Visayas, and 410 in Mindanao. The NEA estimates an average cost per sitio of P1.5 million to bring power to those locations.

The NEA said it is looking to tap renewable energy to power off-grid areas under the Strategized Sitio Electrification Program (SSEP), and the Strategized Household Electrification Program (SHEP).

SSEP targets isolated sitios which cannot be energized via sitio electrification or barangay line enhancement programs. Before SSEP is implemented, the NEA must undertake a feasibility study for a hybrid microgrid system, NEA Deputy Administrator for Technical Services Artis Nikki L. Tortola said in December.

SHEP is targeted at households in remote areas using stand-alone photovoltaic systems.

“No budget has been allocated for off-grid electrification since 2020,” the NEA said Monday, adding that it currently had budgets of P12 million and P153 million for the SSEP and SHEP, respectively. The allocations are based on the 2019 budget.

The NEA added that it has asked the DBM to fund 74 areas for the 2021 barangay line enhancement program, which has not received allocations since 2017. — Angelica Y. Yang