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Lighting up with solar energy

Joe Zaldarriaga

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The country leads among developing countries in Asia in terms of the use of solar photovoltaic systems for electricity generation, according to a Dutch consultancy firm. The Philippines is also ranked fifth in the world, following Chile, South Africa, Brazil and Thailand.
Solar power is turning into the cheapest source of new electricity generation capacity in many countries, especially in the Philippines, which enjoys a sizable amount of sunshine all year long.

We are blessed with abundant natural energy sources that can offer huge potential to meet the power requirements of the country. We need to harness this to our advantage.

Clearly, renewable energy (RE) is the future of power generation. Numerous breakthroughs are currently being made in the realm of clean and green technology. From all indications, it will not only benefit our country’s economic growth but can help alleviate the lives of Filipino families.

Department of Energy (DoE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi sees RE like solar energy contributing more in meeting the power requirements of the Philippines in the years to come.

Cusi said DoE is mandated to secure sufficient, quality, reliable and reasonably priced electricity. In order to develop the country’s indigenous energy resources, the energy body, he added, is open to any technology to achieve these objectives.

In line with this, Meralco has joined hands with DoE, the local government unit of the province and city of Batangas and the United States Agency for International Development to officially launch and switch on a 32-kilowatt solar panel microgrid and 192-kilowatt hour battery storage facility in Isla Verde last week.

Surrounded by waters and situated six kilometers from Luzon, Isla Verde is accessible only via a one-and-a-half-hour boat ride, making it a challenge to connect with the mainland power grid. For years, locals have been subsisting on diesel generator sets from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for electricity.

But the island is now a magnet to foreign visitors and a haven for divers. Its development is stunted as tourism infrastructure cannot be fully realized without adequate power.

Not anymore with Meralco’s first solar microgrid — small-scale power grids that can be operated independently from the country’s interconnected network of power transmission facilities. It supports the distribution utility’s initiatives towards using more sustainable energy sources and highlights efforts on rural electrification, a point of focus by President Rodrigo Duterte, who said he wanted to put a stop to hurdles in the electrification of rural areas.
The project has initially provided electricity to 30 households on the island. The number is expected to increase as Meralco looks to further expand the service to more areas and barangays on the island.

Meralco’s solar microgrid addresses multiple needs: providing much needed power for the island’s six barangays; a universal move on reducing carbon footprint; the push for missionary electrification in unserved/underserved areas and furthering growth at a promising travel nexus.

The enthusiasm and sheer optimism of various stakeholders is undeniable. Residents of Barangay San Agapito, the energization pilot area, were elated over the recent developments. Several potential investors and property developers are also waiting in the wings.

According to Meralco Sr. VP and head, Networks, Ronnie Aperocho, the project is part of Meralco’s commitment to deliver and distribute electricity to its franchise community. It is the fulfillment of Meralco’s promise to provide electric service to the people of Isla Verde.

The project, Aperocho added, was intentionally pursued using green energy and with a safe and sustainable supply of power to uplift the lives of the residents of the island.

Energizing Isla Verde is only the first step into a brighter tomorrow. It warmed my heart to witness many families’ lives empowered through clean, accessible electricity. We hope to sustain this and make it an ongoing trend for the rest of the year and beyond.

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