Beware guerilla solar panel installers

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The Department of Energy (DoE) has acknowledged that “guerilla installers” putting up solar panels of questionable quality is a concern for the agency as it warns the public against patronizing these suppliers to avoid future problems.

Three officials from the department issued this warning at a recent forum on energy options for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), which was organized 10 December by the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PHILEXPORT) to raise awareness among its members of emerging energy technologies now available.

During the forum Q&A, a participant from Cebu observed how solar power is becoming an attractive option for handicraft producers in far-flung areas where electricity is unreliable, but decried the operational problems after the solar panels are installed. He asked if DoE has a registry of legitimate solar panel companies that interested parties could refer to.

Fortunato Sibayan, division chief of the Solar and Wind Energy Management Division, said DoE does not have such a registry right now, but that they have an upcoming project involving Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) certification for solar panel installers as well as TESDA training for technicians and engineers from local government units.

Sibayan disclosed that fly-by-night installers are also a concern for them since DoE has been receiving “numerous calls” about net metering facilities for solar power being installed “but the metering is not that correct.”

He said these “guerilla installers” are only out to make a profit and set up installations “without knowing the requirements, without knowing the standards of how net metering facility (should) be constructed.”

But with the planned project with TESDA, “we hope that soon we will address that concern,” said Sibayan.

He further said that in the absence of TESDA-trained technicians and engineers, the public “can always request our technical assistance at the Department of Energy, and we will provide you the needed technical assistance.”

PHILEXPORT’s vice president for promotions Leonor Abella also confirmed the growing interest in solar energy, with many factories starting to put up solar panels on their roof as an alternative energy source.

To protect exporters and manufacturers from irresponsible suppliers, Abella recommended to the DoE to implement an accreditation process whereby only those who hold a license will be permitted to set up solar facilities.

“TESDA can help because TESDA can make available all over the Philippines licensed and qualified installers,” she said.

Andresito Ulgado, chief of the Hydro and Ocean Energy Management Division, urged everyone not to patronize unknown solar panel products and suppliers.

He noted how solar panels have become widely available, but “let’s not source from sidewalks.” These products may come cheap but “you get what you pay for,” he added.

Meanwhile, Irma Exconde, assistant director of the DoE’s Electric Power Industry Management Bureau, recalled once seeing a draft by the Department of Trade and Industry-Bureau of Philippine Standards (DTI-BPS) initiating the accreditation of solar panels in response to their proliferation. Although no longer updated on the draft’s current status, Exconde told the forum that DTI-BPS could be one of the government agencies that can address the issue, while stressing that DoE is “also concerned and we are doing something” about the matter.

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