Solar Philippines to bring cheap power to rural areas

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To help government alleviate poverty
SOLAR Philippines Power Project Holdings, Inc. said it was shifting its focus to underserved and unserved areas as part of its mission to make cheap and reliable electricity accessible to every Filipino.

On its fourth anniversary, the renewable energy company said it would set aside 50 percent of its resources to areas underserved or unserved by electric utilities to help the government improve the lives of Filipinos.

Solar President Leandro Leviste said last week his company has received thousands of emails from Filipinos asking for solar plants equipped with batteries in provinces with expensive electricity rates and frequent power interruptions.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Solar Philippines CEO Leandro Leviste unveil a solar panel during the inauguration of the Solar Philippines solar panel factory in Sto. Tomas, Batangas on August 23. PHOTO BY ROGER RAÑADA

“While traditional businesses prefer to focus on larger markets like Metro Manila, we are hopeful that investing in rural areas will help uplift Filipinos from poverty, and eventually create an even larger market among the new middle class,” Leviste added.

Solar Philippines noted that energy poverty, or lack of access to affordable and reliable electricity, was one of the biggest hurdles to the development of rural areas.

“Around 10 percent of Filipinos lack access to electricity. As many as 30 percent of Filipinos live in areas either without electricity or with daily brownouts (scheduled and unscheduled), and around 70 percent of Filipinos live in areas covered by electric co-ops, for most of which brownouts are at least a weekly occurrence,” the firm mentioned.

It also noted that while the government has “made decentralization from Metro Manila a priority, electric service has remained an issue.”

Solar Philippines earlier proposed that planned coal-fired power plants be replaced instead with 5,000 megawatts (MW) of solar farms that would generate power for as low as P2.99 per kilowatt hour (kWh).

If implemented, the company projects this would translate to savings of more than P200 billion a year, slash electricity rates by 30 percent, and save an average of P1,000 per family per month.

Last August 23, President Rodrigo Duterte inaugurated the company’s solar panel factory in Santo Tomas, Batangas, touted as the first solar panel factory owned by a Filipino company.

The facility is targeting to generate 800 megawatts annually and produce 2.5 million panels a year.

Meanwhile, Leviste said the company is building a 4MW solar-battery farm Paluan, Occidental Mindoro to bring uninterrupted power supply to up to 20,000 Filipinos at zero cost to the government and at lower cost to consumers.

Solar Philippines hopes this would serve as a model for every town to build its own solar-battery micro-grid and save P20 billion annually in diesel subsidies.

It also hopes that consumers would be able to establish “solar cooperatives” that would generate electricity at lower rates and greater reliability than existing electric cooperatives.

The company said it is currently in talks with several communities to bring this scheme across the nation and integrate irrigation and other projects to create jobs in rural areas.

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