I refer to recent media statements and public briefings by the Sustainable Energy Development Authority (Seda) with regard to the approvals given to applicants wishing to implement solar energy projects.
I wish to focus my comments only on the issue pertaining to the online application process and procedure for feed-in-tariff (FiT) applications for proposed renewable energy projects currently being administered by Seda.
The online application form as well as the guidelines for FiT applications published by Seda are unambiguous and clearly list down the qualifying criteria and the supporting documentation required to prove that an applicant has complied with ALL of the qualifying criteria.
This process is certainly to be lauded and admired for its perceived sense of transparency and providing a level playing ground to all applicants.
Although applications are received in the first instance by Seda via an online submission, Seda has every right, authority and duty to reject any application initially approved but later found to have not complied with providing evidence of compliance with the qualifying criteria.
Again, I wish to only consider one of these qualifying criteria i.e. the requirement that applicants MUST show documentary evidence of the applicant's bank statement/s showing that the applicant has in the bank, cash amounting to at least 20 percent of the proposed project's capital expenditure.
For example, if the project is expected to cost RM100 million to implement, then the applicant has to submit evidence from his bank that he has at least RM20 million in CASH in the bank.
Nowhere does Seda state that other forms of financial standing e.g. assets, stocks etc. may be used. Nothing but hard cash in the bank.
From the foregoing, Seda's online application process is only the preliminary part of the application process which is subject to further vetting and evaluation via human intervention.
Non-compliance of qualifying criteria or the applicant's failure to provide acceptable documentary evidence of having complied with ALL the qualifying criteria should be picked up at this second stage of the application evaluation process.
For Seda to say that the fate of FiT applications is solely, wholly and exclusively left in the "hands" of a computer system is an insult to the intelligence of most Malaysians.
The FiT application process is not a lottery or lucky draw but one where the utmost due diligence must be accorded to all applications received.
I am aware of a case where a renewable energy project promoter received an FiT approval when online applications commenced on 01 December 2011, only to have it revoked a few weeks later.
This goes to show that the initial online approval is not "cast in stone" and can be revoked by Seda on certain grounds.
Although Seda may have had the best interests of all stakeholders in mind when establishing the FiT application procedure and qualifying criteria, it seems to have miserably failed in fairly administering the distribution of FiT quotas to deserving project promoters.