The National Electrification Administration (NEA) recently led the inauguration last Sunday of a pilot project of Smart Solar Network installed in an off-grid island barangay in Busuanga, Palawan province.  

Administrator Edgardo Masongsong joined the Busuanga Island Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BISELCO) in the ceremonial switch-on of the interconnected solar home systems (SHS) with batteries, providing 24/7 electricity to 62 households in Brgy. San Isidro, Busuanga. 

“Rural electrification is not about electrifying the farthest areas, It is about rural development.”

Considered to be the first of its kind in the country, the project is in partnership with the Association of Isolated Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AIEC), Island Light and Water Energy Development Corp. (ILAW), One Renewable Energy Enterprise, Inc. (OREEI), Okra, Infunde Development, and Infranco Asia.

The pilot project took five months to complete from documentation to the installation of solar panels and batteries, with a total investment of $40,000 or P2 million. 

Aside from basic lighting and mobile phone charging purposes, this smart technology also allows capacity sharing or to draw extra power from other solar home systems that can be used in other household appliances like television, refrigerators and air conditioners.

Speaking at the occasion, Masongsong lauded the electric cooperatives (ECs), private institutions and non-government organizations as well as the local government for their efforts to realize the San Isidro Smart Solar Network Pilot Project. 

The NEA chief likewise expressed hope that this kind of project would be replicated on other islands or off-grid areas facing difficulties connecting to electricity grid.

He said while the NEA has made significant strides in bringing power to rural and remote areas across the country since 1969, the task of lighting up the “last mile” households remains a challenge. 

“We really welcome any effort to realize total electrification because we believe that with electrification, there will be economic and social development,” the administrator said.

Latest NEA data show there are still 14,876 sitios across the country that have no access to electricity. To complete the energization of these remaining sitios by 2022, the agency will need an approximately P22 billion.

The NEA chief, in his message, also urged the project beneficiaries to maximize the use of electricity to improve their living conditions.  

“If we will not be able to realize rural development through electrification, then rural electrification as a program is a failure.”

“Rural electrification is not about electrifying the farthest areas, it is not about energizing the last household. It is about rural development. If we will not be able to realize rural development through electrification, then rural electrification as a program is a failure,” Masongsong said. 

AIEC president Rene Fajilagutan said the pilot project is part of the association’s goal to provide reliable, sustainable, and affordable electricity to all Filipinos, including those living in far-flung areas. 

Fajilagutan, who also serves as general manager of the Romblon Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ROMELCO), said this smart solar network setup would be duplicated on other remote islands or isolated areas.

“Ang objective po ng ating asosasyon ay matulungan lahat ng electric cooperatives na pailawan ang mga remote island at remote villages sa pamamagitan ng makabagong teknolohiya,” he said. “Kami po ay naniniwala [na] sa tulong po ng ating NEA at mga partner na kooperatiba, ito po ay ma-re-realize natin.” 

For her part, BISELCO General Manager Ruth Galang said this is the first time that electricity has reached Barangay San Isidro in the power coop’s 36 years of operations. 

“Nagpapasalamat po kami lalong-lalo na sa mga taga-barangay San Isidro na tinanggap [nila] nang maluwag na magkaroon tayo ng pailaw dito. Hindi lang po ito nagtatapos sa 62 [households], dadagdagan pa raw po ito ng Infunde at [ng iba pa nating partner companies na] nag-develop [ng proyektong] ito,” Galang said. 

Meanwhile, Busuanga Mayor Elizabeth Cervantes said the provision of electricity to San Isidro residents would help boost livelihood, at the same time, it could also help increase public safety.

Joining Administrator Masongsong to witness the inauguration on San Isidro Island were NEA Deputy Administrator for Technical Services Artis Nikki Tortola, and Acting Department Manager Ernesto Silvano, Jr. of the Total Electrification and Renewable Energy Development. 

Also present were general managers of different island ECs, namely ROMELCO, Antique Electric Cooperative, Inc. (ANTECO), Batanes Island Electric Cooperative, Inc. (BATANELCO), Lubang Electric Cooperative, Inc. (LUBELCO), Marinduque Electric Cooperative, Inc. (MARELCO), Northern Samar Electric Cooperative, Inc. (NORSAMELCO), Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO), Sulu Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SULECO), and Tawi-Tawi Electric Cooperative, Inc. (TAWELCO).


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