DOE Usec Felix William Fuentabella and Mayor Celsa Adier (middle) sign the Memorandum of Undertaking for the installation of DC Smart Grid facility in Sitio Bubusawin, Barangay Apurawan while Board member Albert Ramma looks on. At left is Rep. Gil Acosta also signing the MOU as a witness.

The Department of Energy (DOE), the local government unit of Aborlan and Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) on Wednesday forged a partnership for the implementation of a DC Smart Grid facility in the town.

The partnership, which was signed through a Memorandum of Undertaking (MOU) states that the DOE under its Development for Renewable Energy Applications Mainstreaming and Market Sustainability (DREAMS) project, shall undertake the electrification of Sitio Bubusawin, Barangay Apurawan and installation of a solar-powered irrigation pump.

The project is in line with the proposal submitted by the local government unit (LGU) of Aborlan and PALECO for its energization of Aborlan, with a budget of P4,797,655.04 sourced from the Support Facility for Renewable Energy (SF4RE) of the DREAMS Project.

The project also has a corresponding support fund from PALECO amounting to P411,300 and Aborlan LGU with P284,000.00 for the provision of manpower, goods and services.

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As part of the memorandum, DOE has initially installed a 24 kWp Solar PV DC Smart Grid System to cater to some 120 households in So. Bubusawin.

In a program held for the signing of the MOU, Undersecretary Felix William Fuentabella explained that areas which are not energized will be declared by the DOE as unserved or underserved, which will be taken over by the government and will be handled by a micro grid service provider (MGSP).

He said that the installation of the smart grid will allow residents to use generator sets to reduce their fuel consumption.

“Each house will be charged P350 per month. I was told that before, houses which operate generator sets spend around P1,500 for three hours each day so you get big savings. Imagine P1,500 for only three hours a day, the smart grid gives you 24/7 energy,” Fuentabella said.

Fuetabella also emphasized the importance of energization of remote areas for the education of children.

“When an area is not energized, the most affected are the children who lag behind in education. With the micro grid system, we expect better services especially in educating the children. Now there seems to be a problem because we connected the households, but not the school. So we have to look at the model and revisit the design. Because we also have to provide the necessary support to the second homes of the children which is the school,” he stated.

“That is why the UNDP is also here to look into our compliance with having more clean and indigenous energy being utilized. We also have to look if the design is correct,” he added.

Shift to renewable energy

Aborlan Mayor Celsa Adier meanwhile emphasized the importance of investing in renewable energy resources.

“The need for renewable energy is becoming a high priority as the population continues to rise. With the amount of pollution output today, we must find sources that don’t harm our planet. The need for gas and oil has become a problem in today’s society as it constantly creates harmful fumes in our ozone layer,” she said.

“The promising source of energy is solar power because it is an infinite source as the sun naturally produces it. The sun is a source of renewable energy which makes it suitable to create clean energy. As we all know, renewable energy is still an expensive option because of the technology that is required to produce it. It follows that it is the entire energy which is derived from renewable sources than the price of electricity which the people are also complaining about today will rise even more. Making this available to rural communities is affordable,” she added.

UNDP resident representative to the Philippines Dr. Selva Ramachandran also expressed urgent need to steer from fossil fuel and shift to renewable energy.

“It is very clear that in the long run, the world could no longer sustain fossil fuel. We can already see the effect of fossil fuel, mother earth is already reacting and I think we have to run to energy mix and that is where renewable energy comes into picture,” Ramachandran said.

“Here in Bubusawin is a case in point. This is a pilot we are testing, and what we saw in the houses earlier clearly shows, including the savings that can be utilized for other purposes by the community,” he added.

New horizon

Adier also said the implementation of the smart grid project in Bubusawin has opened new doors of opportunity to its residents.

“This is the beginning of the light at the end of the long tunnel for the people of Bubusawin. Families can now enjoy the comfort of lighted homes, and benefit for more business opportunities powered by electricity,” Dumating na ang liwanag sa ating komunidad na matagal na nating hinihintay. Inaasahan natin na makakatulong ng malaki sa patuloy at mas mabilis na pag-unlad ng ating bayan,” she exclaimed.

“As we move even closer to realizing our vision for exclusive growth, let us continue to work even harder together, to continue finding ways using affordable and sustainable source of energy so that more communities without access to electricity could benefit from,” she added.

Waiting for main grid connection

Board Member Albert Rama meanwhile expressed mixed emotions during the signing of the MOU.

He said that while the installation of the smart grid is a welcome development, he is still looking forward to the time when the place will be connected to the PALECO grid for a longer and better services.

“Nakakalungkot sapagkat sa programa ng PALECO, ang west coast ay nakalinya sa 2024-2025 pa. Ngunit masaya tayo dito sa Bubusawin sapagkat nagkaroon tayo ng DREAMS project. Gusto natin sana magkaroon lahat kaagad ng kuryente yung ating mga lugar. Ngunit dahil sa limitations ng ating power providers at ng distributor, hindi kaagad makarating dito sa atin,” he said.

“Hindi ito ang tunay na solusyon. Ito ay alternatibong solusyon pa lamang, sapagkat ang solar energy can only do a very limited advantages sa ating economy. But somehow, it can give us social advantages and a little economic advantages na hindi natin natatanggap pa. Wala pa ring tatalo sa grid kung makakarating dito sa atin. But somehow, habang hinihintay natin, meron tayong mini grid – yung solar project na ito,” he added.

Third district Rep. Gil Acosta shared Rama’s sentiment, pointing out that Palawan has been constantly being at the tail end in terms of development.

“Ang sabi nila maganda ang Palawan – yes maganda. The last ecological frontier, but it has always been a double-edged sword. We Palaweños have been receiving the good life being the best island destination, but some of our kababayans have been on the receiving end of lack of development,” he lamented.

“Kaya nga kung 2024-2025 pa darating yung kuryente, medyo matagal. This is the price that we have to pay, being the best island destination, the last ecological frontier, also last in sustainable development,” he added.

He however thanked the DOE for the project, saying the province has long been waiting for the renewable energy.

“Ang Palawan matagal nang naghihintay ng renewable. In fact, pag sinabing renewable, it is always first on our minds but for the past several years, parang nagsawa na kami. “This solar system, this is really good. Thank you very much to DOE for giving this project,” he said.

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