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Leviste’s ‘low’ electricity rates questioned

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SOLAR PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT LEANDRO L. LEVISTE — VICTOR V. SAULON

A GROUP of solar energy developers has stepped up its opposition to the nationwide franchise being sought by Solar Para Sa Bayan Corp. as it questioned the “low” electricity rates company owner Leandro L. Leviste claimed to offer.

In a statement, Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance (PSSEA) said the cost of electricity being offered by Mr. Leviste’s project in Paluan, Mindoro Occidental “is way above” the P2.34 per kilowatt-hour (/kWh) he publicly declared as the power rate he is offering.

PSSEA said solar groups gathered the actual cost of electricity in his project from the billing statements of his customers in Paluan. Mr. Leviste operates in the town through the project of Solar Philippines Power Project Holdings, Inc., a company which he also leads. He previously said Solar Para Sa Bayan is an entity that he owns in his personal capacity.

PSSEA claims that based on its records, Solar Philippines has charged some of its customers more than P15/kWh, not the P2.98/kwh cost that Mr. Leviste has claimed.

“This information casts doubt on [Solar Para Sa Bayan’s] claims and should warn our lawmakers and regulators about the folly of gifting any single private company with a super franchise that the company could use to monopolize and capture rates,” PSSEA added.

In March this year, Solar Philippines announced the completion of the solar-battery microgrid in Paluan, with 2 megawatts (MW) of solar panels, 2 MW-hours of batteries, and 2 MW of diesel backup. The project is designed to supply reliable power “24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at 50% less than the full cost of the local electric coop.”

The project’s unveiling also marked the launch of Solar Para Sa Bayan, which aims “to bring cheaper, more reliable power to areas poorly served by utilities, in support of the Duterte administration’s aim to end energy poverty by 2022.”

Last week, Mr. Leviste said Solar Para Sa Bayan was already serving five areas — Dingalan, Aurora; Calayan, Cagayan; Claveria, Masbate; Dumaran, Palawan; and Lubang, Occidental Mindoro.

On Monday, Solar Para Sa Bayan said in a statement that thousands of small and medium-sized solar companies were joining forces to apply for solar minigrid franchises in Congress, “to create the first true electric cooperatives in the Philippines.”

It said solar business owners, sole proprietors and enthusiasts were pitching together an average of P20,000 per member to form cooperatives, including the First Philippine Solar Cooperative, the Anak Araw Multipurpose Cooperative, and the United Solar and Renewable Energy Cooperative.

Solar Para sa Bayan said these organizations are part of the Solar Energy Association of the Philippines (SEAP), which it described as “the country’s largest solar industry association composed of members of Solar Power Philippines, a Facebook group of over 120,000 Filipinos from across the country.”

This follows Solar Para Sa Bayan’s application for the country’s first minigrid franchise, which it said some power companies had claimed would unduly benefit one company at the expense of others. — Victor V. Saulon