THE National Electrification Administration (NEA) said its off-grid solar project to power far-flung communities faces delay as the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic disrupts trade.

In a statement on Wednesday, the agency tasked to power rural communities said the solar photovoltaic (PV) mainstreaming project saw a delay in the delivery of solar panels coming from China.

“The competitive bidding process and the awarding of contracts to the successful bidders have already been completed. We are just awaiting delivery of solar panels, which will be coming from China,” said Ernesto O. Silvano, Jr., acting manager of NEA’s total electrification and renewable energy development department.

The solar project under NEA’s expanded household electrification program seeks to cover around 5,000 households that are deemed “unviable” for grid connection in the next five years.

The agency allotted P153 million for its implementation.

Households that will benefit from the project are those in the coverage areas of five electric cooperatives: Busuanga Island Electric Cooperative, Inc.; Camarines Sur IV Electric Cooperative, Inc.; Iloilo III Electric Cooperative, Inc.; Cotabato Electric Cooperative, Inc.; and Zamboanga del Norte Electric Cooperative, Inc.

These power cooperatives are set to receive 5,039 solar home system units, which provide cost-effective means to supply electricity to communities not connected to power grids.

The project is part of NEA’s target this year to power 775 sitios or rural villages, as well as 38 resettlement sites by local government units.

As of 2018, there are around 19,740 unpowered sitios across the country, 1,702 of which were classified as off-grid.

This year, the government allotted P1.53 billion for the agency’s electrification projects, which include its sitio electrification program.

Providing electricity to a sitio, NEA noted, costs at least P1.5 million on average. — Adam J. Ang