Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Solar power good for Quezon

Solar power good for Quezon
By Marvin Benaning
Manila Bulletin
November 1, 2011

Several fishing and farming barangays in three towns in the Polillo Island group in Quezon now enjoy electricity through solar power through the work of a non-government organization (NGO) and Team Energy.

In a report, the Alliance for Sustainable Partnership and Initiatives in Renewable Energy (ASPIRE) headed by former National Electrification Administration (NEA) chief Rodrigo Cabrera said the use of solar power became viable in the island barangays after the communities were organized and established their own electrification systems.

Cabrera said the ASPIRE project was conducted from May 2009 to June 2011 in the towns of Burdeos, Patnanungan and Panukulan with support from Team Energy.

He revealed that 16 villages were organized into Renewable Energy and Community Development Associations (RECDAs) and it led to the introduction of 3,400 solar home system (SHS) units.

Electrification has already expanded to seven more households in Quezon and in Tawi-Tawi, where ASPIRE is also working.

In addition, Cabrera said initial social preparation is being conducted in 13 barangays in the Alabat group of islands in Quezon.

Work on the project commenced after Team Energy Foundation, Inc. (TEFI) and ASPIRE signed an agreement on May 26, 2009.

Under the accord, ASPIRE was tasked with the necessary ground work and social preparation of the communities to be energized.

"This includes the conduct of a rapid resources survey of the communities, and organization of members into a RECDA. After sufficient social preparation, ASPIRE undertook the installation of solar photovoltaic systems in the communities, and the establishment of sustainability mechanisms that would ensure sustained benefits for community members from the rural electrification project," Cabrera said.

ASPIRE also worked to secure public and private sector contributions for additional component projects that would contribute to sustainability, he added.

The pilot sites were in Barangays Bonifacio, Carlagan and Mabini in Burdeos, Quezon.

Work in Barangay Tondon, Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi and in Barangay Lookan, Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi started in July 2009 and ended on April 2010.

"These barangays were chosen after a household energy survey – which had been conducted in eight barangays in Burdeos and 13 barangays in Tawi-Tawi – and measurement of candidate barangays against a set of criteria showed them to be the most suitable pilot sites," Cabrera noted.

After the pilot sites had been identified, community assemblies and the formation of RECDAs commenced and consequently, the establishment of a cost-recovery scheme was assured.

What followed was the strengthening of the community associations through leadership and financial management training.

ASPIRE also extended technical assistance for each RECDA’s registration with the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and assistance on partnership building from external organizations and institutions, Cabrera stressed.

In December 2009, a total of 190 solar home system (SHS) units were installed in Burdeos, Quezon, while a total of 100 units were installed in barangays in Tawi-Tawi in April 2010.

A solar-powered distance education facility was likewise installed in Tondon Elementary School, in partnership with the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

To ensure sustainability, a service center which would supply replacement SHS and battery units, was established in Bongao in partnership with the Angto Ho Business Center.

The Burdeos households could get the same service from the photovoltaic (PV) supplier – Solutions Using Renewable Energy, Inc. (SURE) – which has its own service center in Infanta, Quezon.

A month after the pilot project came to a close in April 2010, Burdeos RECDAs, out of funds pooled from the cost-recovery scheme, purchased 50 additional SHS units.

The Tawi-Tawi pilot RECDAs likewise purchased 20 additional units.

Having demonstrated promise and success in the pilot areas, ASPIRE also embarked on replicating the strong community organizing approach in other barangays in Quezon province.