Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla believes that solar energy will free Metro Manila residents from exorbitant Meralco prices.
Petilla said the Department of Energy will fully roll out a solar panel project within the Meralco franchise area that will give consumers access to cheaper power.
Petilla said the cost of electricity generated from the planned solar installations will be P2.00 to P2.50 per kilowatt hour (kWh) cheaper compared to Meralco’s current average rates.
“I want to start the project within the Meralco franchise first because with Meralco’s average prevailing rate of P11.50 per kWh, solar power can compete at P9.00 to P9.50 per kWh,” he said.
Petilla said the DOE will be bidding out the installation, operation and maintenance contracts for the project. The winning bidder will serve as third party to sell solar power to Meralco consumers.
“Consumers will then end up paying two electric bills as they will have two separate electric meters, one of which is for the solar and the other for Meralco. Once that happens, people will see the difference in the price and how cheap using solar power is,” the energy chief said.
Petilla’s plan is to install some 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power through rooftops within the Meralco franchise this year.
“That may be ambitious, but before we do anything here, we have to show the people of a model first that actually works and that’s why I am focusing on that model right now. I have to convince everybody that this model will work, once I prove to them that it works, I’m confident that the rollout will be easy,” he said.
The DOE intends to start the program with an initial 1 MW installation on various universities or colleges in Metro Manila. The budget being allocated for the first 1 MW is placed at P150 million which may be sourced from the Malampaya Fund.
Petilla said he wants the materials and policies for the solar rooftop project completed by February as he eyes start of its implementation by March.
Industry experts believe that solar power should not be assumed as something that will completely wipe out the role of Meralco and such other distribution utilities. They said grid connected solar panels will not replace Meralco but instead will only reduce a consumer’s grid purchase that will result to savings.
The planned 1,000 MW solar rooftop installation, if pursued and completed within the year, may also address the possibility of a tight power supply scenario in Luzon by next year according to the DOE.
The energy department has earlier forecasted a tight power supply power situation in Luzon and even in Visayas by 2015 as a result of the country’s growing economy and at the same time, new power plants not being able to be completed by then.
“Mindanao’s power woes will be solved (by 2015) but here in Luzon, it’s not that there is no new capacities coming in, but it will not make it in time because of the high growth rate,” Petilla earlier said.
Petilla has reported that the worst case scenario for Luzon by next year is for electricity consumers to suffer an hour or two of brownout during hours when power consumption is at its highest which is during 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (PIPPA) agrees with the energy chief’s tight supply forecast for Luzon next year.
However, PIPPA president Luis Miguel Aboitiz stressed that the situation will only be “tight but not short.”
“We have sufficient capacity but we will have to use the more expensive diesels more often,” he said.