Philippines’ regulator opposes net metering expansion

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From pv magazine global 

Philippine energy regulators appear unlikely to expand net metering to solar arrays larger than 100 kW – citing grid concerns. The Department of Energy (DOE) of the Philippines issued a statement yesterday announcing that the country’s Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) does not favour the removal of the 100 kW size limit for solar arrays installed under net metering.

The reasoning, announced by the regulator, is that extending net metering to larger arrays could have an adverse effect on transmission lines, which may not be able to accommodate injections of power beyond that limit.

The Philippines ERC head Sharon O. Montañer added that if a bill aimed at removing the 100 kW cap were to pass, a new study on the grid’s ability to absorb new output would be necessary. Such a bill is currently being considered by the country’s Senate.

“With the proposed incentives under the bill, this is expected to result in a drastic increase in solar energy being exported to the grid,” Montañer  said. “A thorough grid, system, and distribution impact study would help determine how much in exported capacities the grid may accept without unduly compromising power supply stability,” Montañer explained.

The filing of Senate Bill No. 1719 was initiated by Grace Poe, a Filipina senator and businesswoman. “Unlike other power plants, whether fossil-based, hydro, wind or solar farms, rooftop solar does not require land conversions, because it uses what is usually an underutilized and already existing resource – the roof,” Poe said at a recent hearing at the Senate committee on energy. “Complete solar photovoltaic systems or solar technology can be bought off-the-shelf and could be easily installed in a few hours. Larger systems may take a few days. No other technology, renewable or otherwise, could match the convenient installation attributed to rooftop solar,” Poe continued.

The Philippines introduced its net metering scheme for solar up to 100 kW in 2014. However, since the application of the new regime, only 10 MW of rooftop PV systems have been connected to the country’s grid.

In a recent report, the U.S.-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) set out the reasons for this failure. According to the study, regulatory, administrative and financial hurdles are preventing more electricity consumers from installing rooftop arrays, as well as the resistance of local utilities.

The authors of the report also found that the pricing methodology adopted by the ERC has not been improved since 2013. The methodology, based on the amount of electricity exported into the grid, undervalues solar rooftop generation, according to the IEEFA experts, which also stated that the 100 kW limit is now anachronistic.