During RDI Conference 2017, two grants were awarded to student projects which demonstrated merit in offering innovative, workable development projects through collaborations of students from Australia with students from developing nations. These grants were made possible by the generous support of Dr Robyn Alders, recipient of the 2017 Mitchell Humanitarian Award.
The Masy Solar Project, or ‘Investigation of affordable, clean energy solutions for off-grid rural communities in the Philippines’, was one of the two grant recipients, and we are pleased to publish here the project report produced by Thomas Da Jose, Masy Solar project co-lead.
The ability to access modern, clean, and sustainable energy is essential to human development leading to economic growth and productivity. However, energy poverty remains a prevalent issue in rural communities across the Philippines.
While grid electricity is slowly becoming available in remote settlements, many households continue to wholly or partially use kerosene and other non-renewables for lighting. This is especially true In El Nido, Palawan, as the municipality experiences daily power outages due to poor infrastructure. Additionally, the lack of education, policies, and enabling mechanisms act as barriers, inhibiting the uptake and utility of renewable energy resources.
The project titled “Investigation of affordable clean energy solutions for off-grid rural communities in the Philippines” provides a view on the landscape of energy access in El Nido, Palawan. With the support of the Research for Development Impact Network, Masy Solar promoted renewable energy under the context of a community-driven program.
- Empower households, namely women and youths, by encouraging and honing their leadership and social entrepreneurial skills.
- Engage with grassroots stakeholders including women, youth and local leaders to educate, ideate, and develop an inclusive and scalable solar energy program.
In doing so, the project team would work closely with households to educate, ideate, and develop an inclusive solar energy program and fulfil the UN Sustainable Development Goals, with a particular focus on Goal 7, which is “to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern clean energy for all”.
A full-day interactive workshop titled “Turning on the Lights”, took place on 23rd June 2018. There were thirteen participants in attendance from across five barangays. Of these participants, 62% were female and 38% were youths. The workshop was comprised of five sessions focussed on the SDGs, social entrepreneurship, design-thinking, renewable energy, community development, and off-grid solar home systems.
The workshop was a success as supported by all the positive feedback received. Marilyn Masucol stated “They taught us good things. It was so interesting because it benefited our knowledge, especially for females regarding all the topics”, in the same way Angelo Octavo shared “It was good to learn the hard things as it will benefit us and our community”.
The project team conducted field surveys with households to develop a deep understanding of community challenges and opportunities in response to solar power. A total of 52 surveys were completed across nine barangays. The survey was semi-quantitative as it collected data on household demographics, level of understanding fossil fuels and renewable energy, and willingness to switch to solar power.
The eagerness to learn about solar energy was reflected by the hospitability of the Filipino people, as every household was happy to converse with the project team and share their experiences and challenges regarding energy use.
Overall, the findings augmented the project team’s understanding of present energy conditions, the current level of knowledge of affordable clean energy resources and substantiated the organisation’s hypothesis of what constitutes a successful solar energy program for rural communities in the Philippines. It also highlighted the role of women as key enablers within the initiation, implementation, and maintenance of an inclusive solar energy program. A detailed report and analysis of these findings are documented in the Project Summary Report [PDF].
Going forward, Masy Solar remains committed to developing a solar energy program, and its future plans draw from the learnings of this project. This will ensure that its work reflects the motivations and aspirations of rural households and maximises its social impact to help improve the lives of hundreds of families across the Philippines.