RE-Charge Pilipinas (RCP) was established as a post-Typhoon Yolanda initiative to demonstrate the centrality of community-driven renewable energy innovation to achieving climate resiliency and inclusive low-carbon development in the Philippines. ICSC’s RCP team works closely with women’s groups, local government units, volunteers, renewable energy providers, state colleges, and researchers.
Establishing a women-run renewable energy enterprise in Sulu-an island in Guiuan, Eastern Samar
In April 17, 2018, the community all-women self-help group called Sulong Sulu-an, together with RCP, built a store that offers “ice from the sun.” The Tindahanan ni Nanay (mothers’ store) in Sulu-an island uses a freezer powered by solar energy in storing and preserving their products, from ice to cold-cuts from their backyard livestock.
The solar freezer is also used for medical purposes. Being an off-grid island fronting the Pacific Ocean, Sulu-an has no hospital or medical facility in the neighborhood. Thus, the freezer is also used for storing emergency vaccines and medicines for community use.
ICSC has already partnered with Sulong Sulu-an in an earlier project on solar home systems distribution under the Access to Better Energy (ABE) Project. The solar freezer was the identified proceed for the Sulong Sulu-an ‘solidarity fund’, where they regularly collect fees from their pay-to-own solar home systems.
Aside from facilitating the design, procurement, and installation of the solar freezer, RCP also led the organizational development of Sulong Sulu-an by conducting capacity building activities, such as gender sensitivity orientation, visioning, and bookkeeping coaching sessions. As a result, Sulong Sulu-an members are progressively gaining confidence, not only in leading their small enterprise but also establishing their positions as community leaders, forwarding sustainable solutions in addressing community issues in Sulu-an island.
Forming the RE-Serve Humanitarian Corps
A composite mix of Solar Scholars alumna, electrical engineering students from Eastern Visayas State University and disaster risk reduction (DRR) practitioners from non-government organizations (NGOs), people’s organizations (POs) and local government units (LGUs) in Tacloban City, and the municipalities of Marabut, Basey and Guiuan, form the roster of RE-Serve Humanitarian Corps (RE-Serve). Supported by the TUKLAS Innovation Labs, RE-Serve members were trained and equipped in integrating renewable energy-based strategies in disaster response, enabling them to provide technical support to humanitarian organizations, particularly during emergency situations. Accordingly, they are also the trainers’ pool of ICSC in administering the Solar Scholars Training Program in requesting communities.
RE-serve has organized two community-wide simulation drills in Costa Brava, Barangay 88, Tacloban City and Barangay Amantillo, Marabut, using an improved version of TekPaks (portable energy systems), together with a developed tool on energy damage assessment and needs analysis (EDNA) and a drone. The evacuation drill in Costa Brava in Tacloban City, held last July 2018, concluded the National Disaster Resilience Month while the emergency drill in Marabut was held in October, days before the fifth anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan. The main purpose of these drills was to equip and prepare these communities on disaster response, enabling them to be more climate resilient.
RE-Serve may have had its baptism-of-fire during the height of Typhoon Mangkhut where a trained RE-serve ICSC officer joined the composite rapid assessment team convened by Christian Aid, but this paved the way for the convening of the Solar Scholars TekPak assembly workshop in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan.
Innovating the Solar TekPaks with two new versions of TekPak 5
Two versions of the TekPak 5 were developed and are continuously being improved by ICSC and RE-serve, as supported by the TUKLAS Innovation Labs. Intended for community use, Tekpak 5a, a hybrid of the earlier versions namely Tekpak 3.5 and TekPak 4, was built to allow battery storage upgrade and has parts that are commercially available in the locality.
From the original prototype, 15 versions of TekPak 5a were assembled and produced by ICSC and RE-serve volunteers, which were deployed during the evacuation drills and Solar Scholars Training Assembly in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan.
Meanwhile, TekPak 5b, the portable, smaller version that utilizes lithium batteries, was intended for use of humanitarian rapid assessment team responders.
Expanding the Solar Scholars Training Program
Since 2014, ICSC has been implementing the Solar Scholars Training Program which educates community members, local government officials, and civil society representatives on integrating renewable energy in disaster preparedness and community emergency response. This initiative was expanded last 2018, when RCP separately piloted modules on repair and maintenance of community solar systems, and TekPak assembly and repairs.
A series of Solar Scholars trainings were administered in 2018 among participants various sectors. Last March 2018, RCP staff trained five volunteers from 350.org Pilipinas, a nonprofit organization based in the United States who addresses climate crisis through a global grassroots climate movement. In the workshop, 350.org volunteers were trained on the hands-on assembly of the Tekpak, where the device they developed was used during the observance of 2018 Earth’s Day with environmentalists and Catholic parishioners at the San Remedios Parish Church in Malate, Manila.
Subsequently, in April 14-16, 2018, a Solar Scholars Training on repair and maintenance of community solar systems was held in Brgy Sulu-an with 24 participants that consist of Sulong Sulu-an members, youth, fisherfolk, and community technicians. The hands-on workshop covered practical techniques on maintenance, troubleshooting, repair, and monitoring of various solar-power systems (i.e. solar beacon, solar street lights, solar home systems) that were deployed and installed during recovery and rehabilitation in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. This particular workshop was organized since women from Sulu-an island, as primary users of solar energy in their respective households, expressed their need to enhance their skills in utilizing solar technology.
From Malate to Cagayan Province, ICSC organized a new batch of Solar Scholars Training on TekPak assembly in the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut. Volunteers from RE-Serve Humanitarian Corps, 350.org Pilipinas, Greenpeace Philippines, the Archdiocese of Cagayan, and the local humanitarian group People’s Disaster Response Center trained 12 lay parishioners in assembling 12 units of the TekPak 5a, which became useful for emergency lighting and other electricity needs of parishes experiencing intermittent power outages and interruptions due to damages caused by Typhoon Mangkhut.
Since 2015, RCP has already trained a total of 300 Solar Scholars, mostly in the Eastern Visayas region, who serve as community disaster front liners equipped in utilizing and operating the Solar TekPaks and other renewable energy solutions that support emergency energy needs of communities affected by typhoons and other calamities.
Equipping women to train more women to be solar scholars
In October 2018, a team of five (5) women from the RE-serve Humanitarian Corps, Solar Scholars pool and ICSC staff convened to review the Solar Scholars module and discussed how to facilitate the Solar Scholars Training, making it more relevant and useful for community women. As a result, the Women’s Federation of Marabut, together with the RE-Serve Humanitarian Corps and the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) of Marabut, Samar organized the first Solar Scholars Training and municipal-wide community drill facilitated by all women.
Reflecting from their experience during Typhoon Haiyan, the facilitators discussed how gender roles on energy access, use, and management shifted in the aftermath of the typhoon, and established the responsibilities of women in energy conservation and renewable energy systems operations, use, and management. In conclusion, the solar scholars were able to arrange a community drill simulation, focusing on how a mass evacuation can be powered using Solar TekPaks, among residents of Barangay Amantillo, Marabut, Samar.
Launching the RE-Hub in Tacloban City
The Renewable Energy-Hub (RE-Hub), a community resource center on renewable energy and sustainable solutions, was inaugurated last November 17, 2018 within the RCP facility in Tacloban City. RE-Hub provides services on solar systems and bridges customers with reliable renewable energy power providers.
The first locator, Power4all, has already set-up a display of different brands of solar power systems and clean water solutions in the RE-Hub. Subsequently, a dialogue-forum with community partners, walk-in customers, Power4All, and the local cooperative Metro Ormoc Community Multi-purpose Cooperative (OCCCI) was held to explore business and financing potentials for renewable energy products in the RE-Hub.
Energizing community marine conservation efforts
In April 16, 2018, the community solar beacon was repaired and installed in the coral reefs of Barangay Sulu-an, with the help of student-interns from Eastern Visayas State University, fisherfolk associations and the LGU. This was a critical guide that helps fishermen and boatmen avoid coral reefs as they navigate the coastal shores of the island.
Moreover, RCP powered the floating outpost of Barangay Sulangan’s Bantay-Dagat (sea patrol) with a 150-watt solar power system that is meant to guard the Guiuan marine reserve in December 2018. Aside from the providing light, this system also allows the Bantay-Dagat to power their radio communication system, as well as to support rescue efforts for boats sending distress signals in the Guiuan bay.
Concluding a community-energy survey to support a RE Hybridization Project
RCP conducted a community-wide consultation for the Small Island Grid Electrification (SIGE) Sulu-an project in April 19, 2018, where Sulu-an residents signified their consent to explore the potentials of a hybrid renewable energy electrification initiative of the ICSC. This electrification initiative is currently in progress, with a planned installation of a diesel-generator set by the Department of Energy’s Special Power Utility Group (SPUG) area.
ICSC likewise concluded a community-wide household energy survey to determine the energy requirement of each household and their willingness and capacity to pay for electric systems.
Furthermore, there are ongoing consultations with the Eastern Visayas Electric Cooperative (ESAMELCO) to forge formal partnerships for the SIGE Sulu-an initiative.
Hosting interns and researchers to do studies on renewable energy applications and energy resiliency
RCP hosted student interns and researchers from various universities to conduct research and pursue innovation projects within the RCP facility. Nine (9) electrical engineering interns from the Eastern Visayas State University (EVSU) designed prototypes of solar-powered hydroponics system, a wind turbine and a modular solar cooker. Likewise, a geography student from University of Waterloo helped RCP conduct the energy baseline survey in Sulu-an island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Along with them, RCP also accommodated an exchange student from the University of Rennes, France, who documented the experience and narratives of residents of Marabut, Samar post-typhoon Haiyan.
Apart from that, RCP also facilitated the conduct of a case study conducted by a Masters student, together with German-based Reiner Lemoine Institute, who was working on off-grid systems on resilience of island energy systems with an improved risk management approach.
Continuing to share their work on climate resiliency and renewable energy to a wider community.
The RCP Team continues to share its working experience with a diverse range of audiences. Among which are:
- The Healthy Islands Conference in Davao City participated by health ministers from member countries of the Climate Vulnerable Forum. Through an interactive exhibit, the RCP shared renewable energy-powered applications that support health service delivery, particularly in emergency disaster situations;
- RCP Coordinator Arturo Tahup shared the findings on the scoping study for low-carbon development in Tacloban City, as well as the results of the community energy planning in the Pope Francis Village in Tacloban, during the ICSC-organized session on Landscape Governance through Transformed Energy Systems in Urban Areas of the National Environment Dialogue;
- RCP also shared their experience on integrating renewable energy in humanitarian response during the Eastern Visayas Inter-Provincial Conference on Humanitarian Preparedness and Response to Climate-related Disasters held on November 22, 2018 at the Visayas State University.