SouthCot urges ERC to hasten OK of $12M solar power project

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 8 Sept) – South Cotabato officials urged the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to hasten the release of its final approval for the US$12-million solar power plant project in Surallah town.

In a joint letter of appeal sent to the ERC, South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes and top provincial officials specifically asked ERC Chairperson Zenaida Ducut to fast-track the processes involved in the approval of the five-megawatt (MW) solar plant project of NV Vogt Philippines Solar Energy One, Inc. (SE1).

They noted that such move will facilitate the early commencement of the project, which will be based in Barangay Centrala in Surallah town.

The joint appeal was signed by Fuentes, South Cotabato second district Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez and Surallah Mayor Antonio Bendita.

It was also endorsed by South Cotabato-1 Electric Cooperative general manager Santiago Tudio.

The letter cited that the province urgently needs the project in the wake of the continuing energy crisis affecting the entire Mindanao.

“The 5-MW solar plant of SE1 is the sole alternative solution, with the shortest lead time possible to build and operate as compared to other sources of power generation,” it stressed.

The officials cited in the letter that SE1 has proven its competence with acquisition of an eight-hectare property and the building of a seven-kilometer transmission line for the project.

The company’s local and foreign investors are reportedly ready to release their investments for the project as soon as the ERC’s final approval is issued, they said.

“Further delays since the ERC public hearing conducted last July 1, 2014 in Koronadal City poses significant challenges on the part of the investors,” the letter. It added that the investors are serious in funneling their investments to South Cotabato starting this month.

Gov. Fuentes said SE1 has so far completed the permitting processes for the project from other national government agencies.

She cited that the company already secured its Certificate of Registration from the Board of Investments last June 25; Certificate of Commerciality from the Department of Energy last June 18; and Importer Clearance Certificate from the Bureau of Internal Revenue last August 8.

With the release of the ERC’s approval, the governor said the province will have the opportunity to be the first in Mindanao to adopt solar power as the renewable energy source of choice.

She said the project will further enhance economic activities in the province through job generation and increased tax revenues.

Fuentes said it will spur eco-tourism and help improve the area’s image to other local and foreign investors.

In February, the Provincial Development Council of South Cotabato formally endorsed the development of the solar power plant project, which will involve the construction of an eight-hectare solar farm and power plant facilities.

Considering the “massive investment” that the company will contribute to the local economy, the local government initially offered a 10-year tax exemption to NV Vogt as incentive pending the revision of the province’s revenue code.

NV Vogt is backed financially by the Berlin, Germany-based ib vogt GmbH. Aside from the Philippines, the company has offices in the United Kingdom, Poland, India and Singapore.

Aside from its initial US$12-million or roughly P535.49-million investment, NV Vogt signified to invest an additional US$10 million for the project’s expansion in the next few years.

The company signed an agreement with Socoteco 1 in June last year for the streaming of power supplies from the facility once it becomes operational.

Socoteco I serves this city, eight municipalities in South Cotabato and Lutayan town in Sultan Kudarat.