Business & Economy

Experts see solar energy powering remote countryside

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Filipinos living in remote islands and coastal communities stand to benefit the most from renewable energy, particularly the ones supplied by solar PV (photovoltaic) systems.

 

 

Proponents of renewable energy said the use of solar PVs poses a viable solution to the decades-old problem of electrification in far-flung rural communities that belong to the off-grid market, meaning areas which are not connected to the main transmission grid that powers the country’s main islands.

 

At present, off-grid markets are either deprived of electricity or bear the cost of high power rates because their energy sources come from diesel-powered generators.

 

Mario C. Marasigan, Director of the Energy Department’s Renewable Energy Management Bureau, who was among the distinguished guests of the forum, said that with the use of diesel-powered generators, the country is actually providing the most expensive electricity in the poorest communities.

 

He also noted that to address this, the DOE has started its National Renewable Energy Program, which is a 20-year-plan to increase the use of renewable energy by as much as 9,900 megawatts by 2030.

 

Marasigan believes solar PV is the cheapest way of providing electricity to the countryside.

 

“If you try to account everything, including the cost of transmission, administration, solar PV remain the cheapest form of electricity services in the rural area.  Imagine a community composed of 50 households living 25 kilometers away. You have to connect the line to 25 kilometers to serve 50 households. You have to send personnel to go there to read the meters and after you read the meters you go to your office, calculate the bills, go back there to collect the bills. Just for administration alone, solar PV is already the cheapest,” he added.

 

According to Marasigan, to further promote investments in solar PV and other renewable energies, the government is offering incentives such as income tax holidays, ten percent corporate tax rates, duty-free importation of renewable energy machinery and equipment and other perks.

 

To provide a realistic transition to renewable energy, solar PV expert Paul Bertheau of the Berlin-based Reiner Lemoine-Foundation proposed that energy contractors in the off-grid adopt a hybrid system that can combine diesel-powered and solar energy.

 

His GIS based simulation model recommends a hybrid model, for example on Siquijor Island, whose power generation costs would not only decrease by more than 60 percent, the province would also realize savings of 2.8 million liters of fuel yearly. It would also significantly reduce its carbon emission.

 

“The technology solutions are available. The demand is there. What is really necessary now is a regulatory framework to allow solar PVs in the off grid areas,” he said.

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