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Solar power can help PH avoid looming crisis

/ 01:23 AM August 01, 2014

Despite alarm bells being sounded to warn of the energy shortage expected in the summer months (March-May) of next year, nothing concrete is being done to address the problem.

This is not an imagined shortage. The government itself recognizes the very real possibility of the shortage coming to pass and turning into a crisis. But fast-tracking projects that can mitigate it doesn’t seem to be anybody’s urgent agenda. Everybody is only thinking of fossil fuel-powered generation plants that may be already on the drawing board or in early phase of construction. But they will not be online in 2015.

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The best option is to go renewable energy. Solar power generation plants can be constructed in 6-8 months. If the government can issue the permits and licenses for the construction of solar power plants now, it is still possible to avoid the power crisis next year.

The utility-size solar power plants with megawatts-range capacities are the longest to put together. But there are solar power generating panels that can be installed on rooftops in 3-5 days. Imagine 1 percent of the houses in Metro Manila equipped with these facilities. Include the shopping malls, taking 1 percent of their total consumption from their own rooftop solar power generation panels; and every public school building, even renting their rooftops to power utility producers. Not only will the schools be a resource for power generation, their immediate communities will benefit from locally produced and distributed electricity. And not only will there be more power supply, electricity from the grid will also be freed up for distribution elsewhere and transmission losses will be reduced.

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This undertaking will, however, need the cooperation of Meralco and the electric cooperatives. They should be willing to enter into net metering agreements with private homeowners who are willing to install solar panels on their roofs and to share the excess power they generate with nearby communities.

The net metering provisions of Republic Act No. 9513 (Renewable Energy Act of 2008) has been in place since 2013, and yet private homeowners are still having a hard time getting their own solar power generation projects approved.

Private citizens can play a role in mitigating or avoiding the power shortage expected in 2015. Let them install their own solar power generation panels posthaste, after all, the law allows them, the regulations are in place, and they are willing to invest. Only the distribution utilities are preventing them from pursuing such undertaking.

The looming power crisis is real. Free up the generation playing field; let small-scale solar power generation flourish as the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 envisions.

—PHETZ BORJA,

[email protected]

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