Having spent its first four years serving shopping malls and residents of urban areas like Metro Manila, Solar Philippines has vowed to shift its focus to serve the poorest Filipinos in rural areas.
Marking the company’s fourth anniversary, Solar Philippines President Leandro Leviste has announced it will devote over 50% of its resources to areas unserved or poorly served by electric utilities, in line with its mission to make cheap, reliable electricity accessible to every Filipino.
“Inspired by President Duterte’s mission to improve the lives of Filipinos, we will do our utmost to end energy poverty in the Philippines by 2022,” noted Leviste, after President Duterte’s recent inauguration of the company’s 800 MW Factory in Batangas, the first Filipino solar panel factory.
“We’ve received thousands of emails from Filipinos asking for Solar with Batteries in provinces with expensive electricity and regular brownouts. 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.”
At the company’s recent factory inauguration, Leviste unveiled to President Duterte the company’s first social impact project in Paluan, Occidental Mindoro, a town so remote it had been deemed unviable by even the electric coop. Solar Philippines is now constructing a 4 MW solar-battery farm, which will become the world’s largest Island Solar-Battery Micro-Grid, and bring 24/7 power to up to 20,000 Filipinos for the first time ever — at zero cost to the government, and at lower cost to consumers. The company hopes this will be a model for every town in the Philippines to host its own Solar-Battery Micro-Grid, and save 20 billion pesos a year in diesel subsidies.
Solar Philippines hopes consumers will soon be able to form “Solar Cooperatives”, and generate electricity at lower cost and greater reliability than existing electric coops. The company is in discussions with various communities to bring this model nationwide, and integrate irrigation and other initiatives to create employment in rural areas.
Energy poverty, or the lack of access to affordable and reliable electricity, is one of the greatest barriers to the development of rural areas. Around 10% of Filipinos lack access to electricity. As many as 30% of Filipinos live in areas either without electricity or with daily brownouts (scheduled and unscheduled), and around 70% of Filipinos live in areas covered by electric coops, for most of which brownouts are at least a weekly occurrence. While the Duterte administration has made de-centralization from Metro Manila a priority, electric service has remained an issue.
The company recently submitted proposals to electric utilities to replace coal power plants with 5000 MW of solar farms for as low as Php 2.99/kWh, the lowest rate of any new power plant in Philippine history. If accepted, the company estimates this will save over 200 billion pesos a year, lowering electricity rates by 30%, and saving an average of 1000 pesos per family per month.
“We measure our success not based on profit, but our contribution to our nation’s development. We aspire not to be the biggest company, but the one that makes the biggest impact for Filipinos, and hope the entire power industry can unite to support President Duterte’s vision for cheaper, reliable electricity to make the Philippines a first-world nation.”