Solar energy proponents are forming cooperatives with plans to seek their own legislative franchises for minigrids the way Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. (SPSB) is already doing.
Some of them have formed the Solar Energy Association of the Philippines (SEAP) to help hasten the formation of such cooperatives, initially with three that were promptly started during a forum held two weeks ago and organized by SPSB and attended by about 50 members of Solar Power Philippines, a social-media based community of more than 120,000 “solaristas.”
These nascent cooperatives include First Philippine Solar Cooperative, the Anak Araw Multipurpose Cooperative and the United Solar and Renewable Energy Cooperative, which are still working to be full-fledged legal entities.
“Solar Para sa Bayan of Leandro Leviste made it clear to us, and gave us advice, that we could be in business without the hassles of dealing with agencies like the National Electrification Administration, Energy Regulatory Commission, etc.,” Anak Araw co-operator and cofounder Thomas Mallilin said in an interview.
“During the forum, Leviste explained to us how bringing electricity to underserved and unserved areas is possible not only for a big business like Solar Para sa Bayan, but also for the cooperatives that we are forming,” Mallilin told the Inquirer.
Mallilin said Anak Araw planned to apply for a franchise as soon as it attained status as a full-pledged cooperative.
A bill granting SPSB a franchise is pending at the House of Representatives, which other groups like the Philippine Solar Storage and Energy Alliance and Philippine Rural Electric Cooperatives Association said would engender a monopoly. Leviste said that, on the contrary, the bill proposed to grant SPSB a non-exclusive franchise.
In a statement sent through SPSB, SEAP said thousands of small- and medium-sized solar companies would be creating “the first true electric cooperatives in the Philippines” to apply for their own solar minigrid franchises in Congress.
“Many people want to get into the solar business, and now we finally have a solution,” Mallilin said. “I think this has the potential to be what electric cooperatives were originally meant to be, a source of power of, for, and by the people,” he added.
“One company cannot solve all our country’s problems alone,” he said. “The more of us are committed to work together on constructive solutions, the faster we can bring cheap, clean, reliable electricity to every Filipino.”