Emerging grassroots-led clean energy solutions to expand electricity access in underserved communities

Quezon City –Despite the enactment of the Renewable Energy Act in 2008, the Philippines has seen a slow uptake of renewable energy as the government faces the challenge of meeting the increasing energy demand from a growing population and economy.


However, over the past years, community-based and grassroots renewable energy-related initiatives have emerged across the country through the efforts of non-governmental organizations, start-ups, people’s organizations, and small and medium enterprises.


These initiatives took the center stage during the 14th episode of The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ Klimatotohanan webcast series entitled “Power to the People! Community-Led Renewable Energy Initiatives in the Philippines.”

Climate Reality Leaders John Mark Napao and Jovie Gil Montajes shared during the webcast how their respective grassroots organizations are working to help provide off-grid and rural communities access to clean energy through renewable energy technologies.

“In the Philippines, there are still millions of households without power and around a thousand sitios that are still unelectrified. Most of these areas are rural areas, farmers and fishers, who also belong to the highest poverty indices,” Napao said as he explains the thrust of his organization, SOLAR (Sustainable Outreach and Lifelong Advocacy to Rekindle) Hope.

Founded by Napao in 2017, SOLAR Hope is a non-governmental organization dedicated to providing solar home systems to rural and poorly electrified communities. On top of electrification, it aims to develop sustainable communities through education, livelihood, capacity building for installation of solar home systems, and other community development programs.

“Studies show that there is a big correlation between electrification and development. For us, every lighted home is a beacon of hope. Our dream is that those we are able to help now will someday be able to bring hope to others,” Napao explained.

To date, SOLAR Hope has adopted five (5) communities (Bajao Community in Malityam, Batangas; Rawang Community in Tanay, Rizal; Mangyan Community in Paluan, Occidental Mindoro; Calawis Community in Antipolo, Rizal; and Caniogan Community in Morong, Rizal), lighted 459 homes under its Tanglaw Project, and provided capacity development services to 694 beneficiaries.

This year, SOLAR Hope is targeting to light 400 more homes to help families cope with the pandemic, adapt to distance learning, and enjoy the benefits of having access to clean energy.

Montajes, meanwhile, shared the work that they do at Light Of Hope PH, a Cebu-based grassroots movement he co-founded in 2017 to help address two major global problems—energy poverty and climate change.

“The very first initiative that we did was the Solar Night Lamps in a Bottle Project. We were able to recycle 3,020 PET bottles and turned them into solar night lamps which displaced kerosene lamps in 1,500 households in Visayas and Mindanao,” Montajes said.

When the pandemic hit last year, Light of Hope launched the Cloudgrid Solutions Project, which provides affordable clean energy access to low-income communities while providing a platform for individuals or organizations to voluntarily offset their carbon footprints by funding Cloudgrid units.

With the help of donors, Light of Hope deploys Cloudgrid units, which are solar-powered generator sets that can power lights, Wi-Fi routers, charge mobile devices, and other appliances, to underserved communities. These units are equipped with a built-in Internet of Things (IoT) monitoring system that enables tracking of the energy usage of beneficiaries and computation of the resulting carbon emission reduction from the use of the solar-powered generator sets.

“So far, we have deployed 17 Cloudgrid units, with another 20 units about to be deployed,” Montajes shared.

Light Of Hope’s ambitious goal for 2021 is to uplift the lives of more than 2,500 – 5,000 people by building and deploying 500 to 1,000 Cloudgrid units and potentially reduce/avoid 65,000 – 130,000 kg of carbon emissions per year.

Private sector as the engine for a rapid clean energy transition

Climate Reality Leader Janice Dugan, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at First Gen Corporation, underscored the crucial role of the private business sector in accelerating the country’s clean energy transition.

“Behind our greenhouse gas emissions are businesses. And unless businesses become mindful of the practices, our emissions will be the same. For me, one way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is a shift to a clean energy source. And I believe it is the businesses that have the resources and the power to do that shift. They have the resources and they have that power to choose their source of electricity,” she said during the webcast.

She added that the private sector could help shape policies and regulations that will ensure that nobody will be left behind during the clean energy transition.

Youth-powered coalition for a decisive clean energy transition

Marlon Apanada, convenor of next-generation coalition OurEnergy 2030, highlighted the need to define 2020 to 2030 as the decisive decade of action for transitioning our energy system into a low-carbon and sustainable one.

“It is not enough that we have electricity, we deserve clean and affordable electricity,” Apanada said as he laid out the demands of their coalition for a responsive and inclusive energy transition in the Philippines, which include (1) removal of automatic fuel pass-through costs that unduly disadvantage consumers with high electricity rates; (2) decisive and rapid and implementation of 2000 MW renewable energy auctions; and (3) mobilization of state-owned banks to finance the energy transition.

To date, the OurEnergy 2030 has more than 30 members organizations, with the newest members from the student sector—making the coalition youth-driven, language-diverse, and geographically distributed that is well-positioned for grassroots engagement.