By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor

A NONPROFIT organization has teamed up with a Dutch solar company and a German development institution to promote access to solar energy solutions for small buildings in the Philippines.

Karthik Subburaman, regional director of Asia Society for Social Improvement and Sustainable Transformation (ASSIST), said his organization’s partnership with Deutsche Investitions-und Entwicklungsgesellschaft, or KfW, and SolarNRG Netherlands seeks to pilot projects in Metro Manila, which could be replicated elsewhere in the Philippines.

“Our interest is to drive and promote sustainable development in the region. So we are committed to several sectors,” he said. “Renewable energy is one of them.”

The partnership, called accessRE, targets small and medium-sized buildings by helping them adopt sustainable power systems, such as solar panel installations. Its objective is two-pronged: provide solar installations to relevant small institutions, and develop skills for future solar energy technicians.

KfW, the other partner, is co-financing the project. The German development institution provides grants for projects with “good concepts,” Mr. Subburaman said.

“What ASSIST did was to conceptualize the idea. Along with the private partner, SolarNRG, [we] submitted a proposal to KfW and KfW decided to fund it,” he said. “So the project is partly funded by KfW [and] partly funded by SolarNRG.”

The project’s target installation within its 18-month duration is a maximum of 100 kilowatts. It estimates small-scale solar power solutions, with capacities ranging from 1 kilowatt-peak (kWp) to 5 kWp, to save about P1,500 to P7,500 a month.

These systems’ return on investment is expected within four to six years, while having an average lifespan of 25 years, making them cost-efficient and effective in mitigating losses from the limited availability of energy.

“They also start to reduce their impact on the environment in terms of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Mr. Subburaman said his team would screen applicants for the project, although schools and universities have an advantage.

“The criteria is, number one, it has to be a small enterprise. So it cannot be a large enterprise,” he said, adding that these entities should have a requirement of no more than 50 kW or a consumption of about P50,000-100,000 of electricity a month.

“The second is, what is the relevance of the institution to the public or the community. In that sense, if it’s a small company that provides employment to the people of the community, if it’s a hospital, if it’s a school, they get preference,” he said.

Aside from the solar installations, the project aims to develop a customized training module for electricians, Mr. Subburaman said.

“They get skilled as a solar technician, so they will be able to do solar panel installations as well as maintenance,” he said.

“By doing this training module, making it available in one or two public schools [and] vocational schools, it becomes accessible to anyone. We will not charge them for the training during the project duration,” he said.

Mr. Subburaman said there is a “high chance” that the project will be replicated outside Metro Manila.

“It’s a matter of how soon, that’s the question. It’s not about whether it will happen. It’s about how fast we will be able to replicate it,” he said.

“If it’s the same donor, we have to finish this project before we can get another grant to do it. If we are working with other donors, then it’s possible that we can start earlier,” he added.