Ombion: Small-scale renewable power system

IN THE face of increasing power rate per kilowatt-hour, one of the best options to make power available at cheaper rates especially for the marginalized sectors and development organizations is to establish small-scale, community-based renewable power systems in as many areas possible with priority on off-grid communities.

Around 45 percent of our communities are off-grid and depends on power sources from crude system to portable and disposable ones.

The high demand for solar and other renewable energies have prompted big companies and multinational power corporations to construct huge solar power plants, which they sell not directly to power consumers but to power distributions like electric cooperatives whose selling rate is not the solar rate on per kilowatt hour basis but their current commercial rates.

Worse, these big companies are also trying to monopolize the renewable energy systems because their main reason for being is profit and super profits, not public service.

This is the reason why I have always been advocating that the government should not privatize power but control it, including renewable energy system, and promote instead solar roof-top system, small-scale, household and community-based power systems.

The small-scale, community-based power system can be established through the stand-alone solar home system for a family or a centralized solar system for a village.

Another is a micro hydro-power system with 50 to 200 KW or KVA which can provide basic electricity for a small village.

Of course, the more versatile system is solar, which is cheaper, less or practically no maintenance cost, and can work anywhere in the country because of our large exposure to the sun.

For urban households, those consuming 1 kilowatt or lower can easily put up 500 watts to 1 kilowatt complete or ready to use a solar system which cost only P75,000 to P95,000. It can already power 6 LED lights, e-fan, LED TV, laptop and cellphone charging.

Those who have more facilities, or with an electric bill of P2,400 to P4,900, they can set up a 2-kilowatt system which cost P175,000 to 185,000. Those who have more needs, or with an electric bill of P7,400 to P9,900, they can put six kilowatts or a bit higher which cost P498,000 to P545,000.

The return on investment (ROI) for these systems usually average three to four years. After which until 25 to 30 years, the solar user is free of electric bill from any ravenous commercial power companies.

There are also small and mobile solar systems which can be used for small fishing boats, small sari-sari stores, a mobile store or pushcart, for outdoor family activities like hunting or camping, or simply for charging a laptop, portable TV, radio and mobile phone especially for the travelers.

When people have electric power, they can also be very enterprising. They can put up a store, install a water system, and buy a small fridge for storing marketable frozen goods, medicines that must be kept in cool temperature, among others.

Small-scale, community-based power systems can truly spur widespread and varied local economic activities which can raise people’s income, improve people’s quality of life, and raise local revenues.

Local government units (LGUs) can start with this innovated option, instead of waiting for initiatives from national government, or striking deal with power generators and distributors whose add-on charges are too many and expensive.

LGUs have the money to finance start-up enterprising renewable energy projects. They can also facilitate LandBank and other financing institutions loan facility for their constituents, cooperatives or associations. Or they can encourage and mobilize private sectors to put up these systems and have them amortized by the people at considerable terms.

Non-government development organizations with enterprising community partners can also integrate these small power systems to encourage more production, raise productivity, and expand their business enterprises.

When this is our framework of looking at renewable energy, I don’t see any reason why the government cannot succeed in democratizing power and why people cannot appreciate and support it.

Once again, I am happy that more and more people are supporting my advocacy for “small is beautiful” mindset and technologies are paying off. It is not only simple and practical, but it also gives one a wider room to be innovative, creative and inventive.

But lest I be misconstrued for being obsessed only with all that is small, micro and nothing to do with macroeconomic and political concerns, I have always stood for fundamental reforms in our national economic, political and social infrastructures.

Substantive change always begins with smaller initiatives.

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