The Philippines, leads the solar energy revolution in Asia, according to a Dutch consultancy firm, Solarplaza. The country topped the list in terms of the use of solar photovoltaic systems for electricity generation.Rotterdam-based Solarplaza conducted the study among developing countries in Asia.
“The country is still relatively young when it comes to solar development, but was able to get 7 active projects ranked in the top 50 list,” said Solarplaza research analyst Marco Dorothal.A 900-MW solar power installed in the country by June of last year, according to Dorothy’s report.
Long reliant on fossil fuels, the Philippines’ transformation into a regional powerhouse in Asia took almost a decade. A decade-long fight of energy activists led to the downfall of the government’s point-revenue system.
Otherwise, the country’s Renewable Energy Act of 2008 or RA 9513 established the actual framework and Implementing Rules and Regulations building the country’s solar economy.
Energy experts eye the country’s solar investment next to France’s green revolution. Today, roofs of commercial buildings in France are studded with solar panels and plants.
Leandro Leviste’s Solar Philippines made its biggest debut as it accepted the challenge of industry giant First Nat Gas Power Corp. to provide round-the-clock power supply to Manila Electric Cooperative (Meralco). This deal is expected to power up most households in metropolitan Manila.
“Solar-based factories will help Filipinos save 30% for their electricity,” Leviste said in an interview.
In 2018, the company made a groundbreaking deal with National Grid Corporation of the Philippines to integrate their pipeline 100-megawatt solar farm in the national energy lines.
Last year, the company’s groundbreaking 150-MW project is the first solar module factory in Northern Luzon.
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A solar-powered household
Contributing a third of the country’s energy, costs of solar energy is dropping sharply by 73 percent, equivalent to $0.03 per kilowatt-hour. By 2020, it will decline further by half making it the market’s major energy player.
One solar photovoltaic panel in the country will include an income tax holiday for the first seven years of commercial and extended tax holidays on non-commercial usage, low corporate taxes, duty-free imports of machinery and equipment and zero value-added tax (VAT).
Using solar is an option for a Filipino household owner, Alex Santiago. In the past eight years, he pays less and less for his power usage. If he used to pay almost P20,000 (US$391*) to electrify his two-story house with five bedrooms in Valenzuela, now he is only paying half of what he used to. His electrical charges dropped down to up to P12,000 (US$235*), even at P9,000 (US$176*) on good months.
“I installed it on our roof, then guess what happened? My meter’s not moving and I guess this signifies a good thing,” Alex says.
Using his 20 solar panels that produce a 675-kilowatt-hour count, he is guaranteed that at the end of the day, his time, money and effort will remain in the comfort of his home.
On continued usage, Alex sold his excess watt to Meralco, and “pays” for this extra energy by subtracting his electric charge to his bill next month.
Like most Filipinos, he receives minimum wage still subject to taxes and third-party payments.
The Philippines, Asia’s solar farming capital
The term “renewable energy resources” or simply “renewables” includes biomass, solar, wind, geothermal, ocean energy, and hydropower, among others.
The country’s RA 9153 affirmed the government’s commitment to accelerate the country’s exploration and development of its renewable energy resources.
Two years later, former President Aquino launched the National Renewable Energy Program describing his prospects of the success of renewable energy in the country. “Renewable energy will fuel our nature,” says Aquino.
Most energy monopolies and electric cooperatives walk on the margins to join the country’s revolution.
Leyte province is one of the first to completely operate using solar power and electrify households using both steam and solar as a resource.
“[Typhoon] Yolanda was a product of global warming, and we here in Leyte were among the first major victims of global warming. People are more conscious now of protecting the environment so we are more conscious of promoting renewables,” Gov. Dominic Petilla told in a report.
Negros Occidental followed Leyte’s lead on the production of solar power chains. The US$2-b investment by Equis funds is expected to power up a 132.5-MW solar farm in Cadiz, one of the six solar farms in the province. By 2030, the entire island will power up off-grid communities around the country.
The huge potentials of the country to expand its solar economy attracted investors to commission large solar parks in the country. Philippines’ solar PV projects promise to cover most areas in the country, even those at last-mile locations.
On the north, Metro Manila’s Meralco introduced “net metering” program to its constituents. It allows households to sell back excess electricity generated by their renewable energy systems and use them as credits to lower their electricity bill the following month.
Meralco said their program is in consonance with Renewable Energy Act of 2008 allowing each homeowner to save up to 100 kWp (kilo-Watt peak) of installed solar panels under net metering.
Metro Manila’s economic hubs built their own solar PV systems on their roofs, dismounting its lines from Meralco. SM North Edsa, one of the largest mall chains in the country, installed1.5-MW solar PV systems which are largest in Asia.
Nearby province’s energy cooperative implement energy programs to urban homeowners who have renewable energy systems installed at their homes. At dusk, normal grid current replaces solar power.
Other electric cooperatives offer Peak/Off-Peak (POP) program. Under POP program, the electric cooperative charges higher rates in daytime consumption and lower rates during nighttime consumption.
The growing demand for a complete energy transition is still a far-fetched journey for the country. According to a report, “Energy poverty is driven by a number of immediate causes, most obviously rising bills, falling incomes, and poor quality housing.”
A stretch away from the bustling metro, many seaside communities and leeward shelters in the country still have no access to electricity. To aid in this energy shortage, SEED4COM, an international socio-civic NGO, transforms every indigenous community in Visayas and Mindanao as beacons of light.
“I started as a social entrepreneur who is passionate about energy democracy through helping those who had lost homes and lives,” DannDiez, Executive Director of SEED4COM, said. His project, ‘Project EnKindle’ powered up 150 communities with the help of local and international volunteers.
As most early projects, they started from solar home lighting to providing training and workshops with stakeholders to construct makeshift solar panels made from indigenous materials. These panels are donated to households and communities who have no access to electricity.
“Electricity charges are very expensive to pay, so we are compelled to use kerosene lamps for light during the nighttime”, says a mom of four in an indigenous community in Cebu.
At late night, his husband goes fishing using the same kerosene lamp after they ate their supper. Risky as it is, they try to live normal as long as they are guaranteed shelter and some food to eat.
She also shared that his husband was on a brink of an injurious accident because of that lamp, the makeshift roof made from sewn tarpaulins was caught on fire through the gas spilled on the boat. Fortunately, his husband smothered the fire at an instant.
Recently, SEED4COM, through “Be a Hero of Light” project, launched a fundraising event to provide each fisherman in remote communities with a solar floating lamp to replace kerosene lamps in fishing at night.
“At present, we include indigenous communities in Mamanwa and Manobo tribes in the Agusan Marsh to light up their floating school to make energy accessible to all,” Dann said in an exclusive interview.
*1 US$ = PHP 51.03
writer Mark John Dayto Climate Reality Project Philippines Intern, International Affairs