CURRENT INNOVATION/SOCIETAL CONCERNS
Elpidio V. Peria
23 November 2014
The Biodiversity, Innovation, Trade and Society (BITS) Policy Center, Inc, in collaboration with the Allah Valley Land Development Alliance (AVLDA), an inter-local government unit (LGU) council organized between South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces and its component units to manage the watershed and riparian systems in the region, held last 21 November 2014, the first-ever technology assessment of a 5 MW solar power project in South Cotabato province, the activity being held in a conference room inside the Municipal Hall of Surallah, South Cotabato.
Those who participated in the activity were the eight residents coming from near or close to the location of the solar power project in Sitio Sta. Rita in Barangay Centralla in Surallah, South Cotabato, with observers coming from the Municipal Planning and Development Office of Surallah, South Cotabato and two NGOs, the Freedom from Debt Coalition as well as the Canada-based international organization ETCGroup.
The process of the technology assessment started with an expectation check of the participants where they were asked what they hope the solar power project will accomplish in their community or in their lives, then followed with an expert input from Mr. Erwin Serafica of the Renewable Energy Association of the Philippines.
The one hour input of Mr. Serafica looked first at the big picture about the energy sector in the Philippines and zoomed in eventually on the details of the solar power technology.
Mr. Serafica said the solar power technology of the type that will be set up in Surallah, South Cotabato, will require an average of 2 hectares land per MW, its life-span is around twenty years after which it will degrade and decline in efficiency; it costs around Php3 million pesos for the equipment alone and as he spoke, he said its prices are still going down.
A question and answer section followed the expert input and in this segment of the program, participants asked questions how they may be able to secure benefits from the establishment of the solar power project in their area – from the paving of their local roads to the reduction of their electricity bill. After being made aware of the benefits due to the community from the provisions of the Renewable Energy Act, some were keen on getting a peek inside the nitty-gritty details of the contract between the distribution utility, the South Cotabato Electric Cooperative as well as the proponent of the project, so they may know how the community and their barangay can set up their own community-managed facility.
The final segment of the process consisted of a facilitated discussion zeroing in on four questions that were answered by the participants in no particular order :
a) Considering what you know now about the solar power technology, will you welcome such technology to your area in Surallah, why or why not?
b) Will there be any difference now in your (and your family’s) life with the presence of this technology in your area? What do you think you will now be able to do with the presence of such solar technology?
c) What do you think will be the effects of this project to the community and to the province in 5 years? In 10 years?
d) Are there other alternative power source/s that the government should have considered instead of this project?
The assessment wrapped up after the facilitated discussion. The report of the activity is expected to be prepared by BITS Policy Center and submitted to AVLDA by the first week of December.