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Solar firms brace for ‘new normal’


SOLAR energy companies are gearing up for the new work setup to safeguard the health of their employees once the government lifts the enhanced community quarantine imposed because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, the Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance (PSSEA) said on Tuesday.

Based on a survey by the Philippine Solar Energy Association, majority of its members reported modified work arrangements including work rotation and work-from-home schemes, which will continue until June to provide the needed space that effectively lessens employees’ contact during work periods, especially during lunch and coffee breaks.

“Most solar companies plan to re-configure their office spaces so that the recommended two-meter distance from one another can be implemented rigidly,” it added.

All entities also committed to adhere to the government’s directive requiring employees to wear masks and face shields for protection against Covid-19 infection.

“[T]he social distancing discipline, which forms the core of the Covid-19 prevention, now preoccupies the mindset of most solar companies in an effort to protect workers and employees post-lockdown,” said PSSEA Chairperson Maria Theresa Capellan.

A good number of companies will be conducting rapid testing among their employees, said
Karen Capellan, SunAsia Energy business development manager and safety coordinator. “[T]he tests are intended for all employees and free-of-charge. It will be administered by a medical professional on day one of the post-lockdown.”

Although the frequency of testing is yet to be finalized, she said they expect repeat tests for better Covid-19 surveillance, especially among high-risk employees who reside in congested communities and are more vulnerable due to their daily commute and wider contact with people.

The Covid-19 testing will be done not only to employees of First Gen Corp. but also to their employees’ immediate family members who share the same roof, according to Miguel de Vera, Energy Development Corp.’s, head of strategic initiatives, legal and regulatory office.

PSSEA also said their technology partners from China extended assistance to the Philippine solar industry. For one, Inverter manufacturer SunGrow donated N95 masks so solar energy companies.

Meanwhile, the group is appealing to the government agencies to accelerate its virtual permitting and approval platform so transactions with the concerned government agencies can run smoothly even with most companies working from home.

In a letter to the Department of Energy and the Energy Regulatory Commission, Capellan said “this may be the perfect time to put up the online system and process applications without the need for face-to-face interaction.”

“Such system will effectively allow government and private sector to achieve its mutual interest of project completion of all energy infrastructure projects without risking public health,” she added.


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