Investors ready US$20 Million for off-grid solar projects in the energy-stricken Philippines

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Singapore’s WEnergy Global is set to invest US$20 million into four renewable projects in the Philippines. The developer and operator of renewable power projects said the equity finance will see the projects completed within 24 months. 

The projects are modelled on the Philippines’ Sabang Renewable Energy Microgrid (SREC) Project in Cabayugan, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, commissioned this week. SREC, the largest off-grid electrification plant in Southeast Asia, combines solar PV (1.4 MWp), diesel generation (1.2 MW) and 2.4 MWh battery storage to delivery hybridised electricity to 700 consumers throughout a 14-km distribution network. 

The Philippines has been struggling with insufficient power supply and shoddy transmission for years. Energy poverty is a commonality, especially in remote areas. Unfortunately, due to the sheer size and nature of the country, remote areas are a commonality too. 2.7 million households in the Philippines still lack access to electricity and a further 200,000 receive only intermittent and unreliable supply. 

In recent years off-grid electrification supplied by solar PV and battery storage systems has demonstrated itself to be the most cost-effective solution. Last month pv magazine Australia spoke to Afnan Hannan of Okra Solar, an Aussie startup delivering solar minigrids to remote locations in the Philippines and Cambodia. Hannan told pv magazine that “extending the electricity grid to a remote village of 100 or so houses is not the most feasible option. The best options are pretty much solar home systems or minigrids.” 

Fitch Solutions Macro Research and Globadata reached the same conclusion in a report published in May of this year. According to the report rooftop PV is displacing utility-scale developments as the main driver for new capacity in the Philippines. The Globaldata report forecasts solar will see its share of the country’s electricity mix rise from around 4.3% last year to 13% in 2030. According to figures from IRENA, total PV capacity in the Philippines stood around 886 MW at the end of last year.   

It is this shift to off-grid distributed energy that encourages WEnergy Global to invest in four more projects in the manner of Sabang. “The fundamentals of WEnergy Global are centred on bringing sustainable renewable energy, the most cost-efficient solution, to off-grid or island communities, off-grid industrial estates and new townships,” said Atem S. Ramsundersingh, CEO of WEnergy Global. 

Philippine Secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE) Alfonso G. Cusi, who was at the inauguration of the Sabang project this week, emphasised the Philippines’ need of “more decentralised energy systems through the private sector to end energy poverty.” 

Senator Sherwin T. Gatachalian seconded the innovative approach to alleviating energy poverty, “We need more of these advanced, innovative solutions to be developed and executed simultaneously to be able to empower and transform local communities around the country. Projects like SREC can show that it can be done, and together we can end energy poverty with clean, reliable, and affordable energy solutions for all.” 

It seems as if the pathways to energy, and clean solar energy for that matter, are finally opening up in the Philippines. For Hannan and Okra Solar, the Philippines is where all the indicators are aligning for us to scale out fast.”