Last week, I filed a bill in Congress targeting the installation of one million solar power systems in Philippine homes and business establishments in 10 years. This seems like a lot of solar rooftops. But trust me, its the only way to go in ensuring cleaner and cheaper electricity and achieving energy self-sufficiency.

Why solar power? And why target the small consumers?

We might not realize it, but we have been using solar power since the dawn of creation. Remember, in the beginning there was light.

The use of solar power is a no brainer for our country, which enjoys at least 12 hours of sunlight 365 days a year. Its free and available as long as the sun is burning, which means until millions of years from now. There’s no fuel to consume, only sunlight to tap on your photovoltaic panel, heating tube, or mirror.

The problem, of course, is the cost it takes to transform solar power into electricity. Despite radical advances in technology, it is still too costly for the ordinary consumer to buy photovoltaic panels, much like cell phones were considered a luxury 15-20 years back. Industry experts say prices of solar power systems are expected to drop dramatically in 3-5 years.

A raging debate in the energy industry is the proposed pricing mechanism for solar power. The Renewable Energy Act of 2008 mandates a feed-in tariff (FIT) for solar and other renewable energy (RE) sources that would give RE developers a guaranteed, premium price for the electricity they produce. The logic is that the higher than market rates would entice investors to put their money in RE.

The National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) is proposing a FIT for solar power of P17/kWh. This is much much higher than the average cost of non-RE power, which is around P4/kWh for coal and P6/kWh for natural gas. In fact, solar is considered the most expensive RE source. Using this logic, the more solar power developers enter the industry, the more expensive our power rates will be; a big no-no considering we already have the highest power rates in Asia.

But what is true at the macro scale may not necessarily be true at the micro level.

Assuming that the FIT is really P17/kWh for industrial RE developers (I know that in other countries its much less than that), would the same rate apply to an individually-owned solar rooftop system? Unlike the big RE company, the individual owner will have a much much lower overhead costs – solar rooftop systems are practically maintenance-free. No need to hire employees to clean the solar panel because members of the household can do this much like they clean the bathroom. No stockholders insisting that the household make millions worth of profits. No worries about high-paying executives enriching themselves from the solar rooftop’s operation.

What the individual owner will make sure is that his solar rooftop pays for itself by reducing his electricity bill. Since he will now produce his own power, he will rely less on the predatory players in the power industry. He will be more mindful of his power consumption, making sure he uses clean and renewable solar power as much as possible.

But its not only that. If we allow the individual owner to feed into the grid and get paid for the power he produces, then he can make extra money. For example, for most part of the day the family would be at work so the solar panel would produce excess power. What if this power can be sold to Meralco through a net-metering agreement, where Meralco then offsets the power it gets from the consumer’s monthly bill?

Now, what if we give these users a chance to pay for their solar power systems in 10, 15 even 20 years at low interest rates? What if they can borrow from Pag-Ibig, GSIS or SSS to buy a solar power rooftop, then cover the loan with the savings and earnings that they get from using the solar rooftop?

This is precisely what we envision in our bill, which we call the One Million Solar Rooftops Act of 2011. By providing incentives and credit facilities for small solar power systems, we hope to encourage the use of the cleanest and greenest RE source, thereby providing an alternative means of lowering electricity rates and achieving energy self-sufficiency in the micro and macro level.#

4 thoughts on “The solar option

  1. I agree that solar power is one of the more promising RE technologies available for the individual household, but locally available Solar Home Systems basically can only address electric energy needs for lighting, radios and other low-power consuming appliances. A photo-voltaic energy system consist not only of solar panels which are used to collect solar energy for conversion to electricity but other ancillary devices like batteries, battery charge controllers and in some applications, inverters. The challenge also is in the storage of the electric energy collected during daytime. Most PV systems manufacturers recommend using deep cycle solar batteries which lasts and performs better than ordinary automotive batteries, but are more expensive. Another thing is, I believe nobody has figured out a way or a system of disposing the spent batteries. Imagine if every other household in the Philippines will have to dispose of a spent battery every three or five years.

  2. i don’t mean to insult anyone,…sir, magkano po ba pasweldo sa researchers ninyo? pwede po ba mag-apply? mejo kulang po yung punto nyo, i do hope you are consulting a professional electrical engineer. . . i highly suggest, that when there is a bill being proposed like this, the idea is to solve/propose to solve it completely considering all aspects. instead of burdening the the consumers to come up with their own solar panels (you are promoting cartel of solar panels on one view of your bill), entice the energy providers to do this for the consumer. to put it simply, napocor fr example, will invest in purchasing these panels in partnership with meralco and other provincial distributors. apply the smart grid technology (that an excess of consumed power more than what the panels can provide will have to get its power using the current system–assuring meralco that there is still profit for such power distributors). consumers shall pay the cost of solar panels to meralco on a spread of say 5 years assuring meralco that the interest rate is a guaranteed profit. on the 6th year, meralco shall concentrate on big consumers of power (with which the government mandates that they cannot use solar panels). . . huwag po tayong magpatay ng mga kumpanyang naging tapat din naman sa atin. let us all suffer the consequences of Cory Aquino’s decision to kill the power plant which should have maintained our power cost at PhP0.000001 per kilowatt-hour.

    at this point, let me share a better enemy of power providers. let’s study this and consider all players to cooperate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wHGh2eRbLE&fb_source=message

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLShlMhclTY&feature=related –added link lang po to support my last statement about the late cory aquino.

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