RE-Charge Pilipinas (RCP) is a post-Typhoon Yolanda initiative that demonstrates the centrality of community-driven renewable energy innovation to achieving climate resiliency and inclusive low-carbon development in the Philippines. RCP 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 ICSC, 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. 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.

ICSC also led the organizational development of Sulong Sulu-an by conducting capacity building activities, such as gender sensitivity orientation, visioning, and bookkeeping coaching sessions. 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

The roster of RE-Serve Humanitarian Corps (RE-Serve) is composed of:

Around a hundred residents of Sitio Costa Brava, Brgy. 88, San Jose, Tacloban City conduct an evacuation drill in San Jose Elementary School on July 28, 2018. Led by volunteer responders from the RE-Serve Humanitarian Corps, they used TekPaks to light up the school and charge mobile phones and medical devices. The drill was organized by the Corps, local government units, homeowner associations and civil society groups to cap off the observance of National Disaster Resilience Month this July.

  • Solar Scholars alumna;
  • Electrical engineering students from Eastern Visayas State University;
  • 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,

Supported by 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. 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), a developed tool on energy damage assessment and needs analysis (EDNA) and a drone. The main purpose of these drills was to equip and prepare these communities on disaster response, enabling them to be more climate resilient.

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, with the support of 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.

Fifteen 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 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 to educate community members, local government officials, and civil society representatives on integrating renewable energy in disaster preparedness and community emergency response. This was expanded last 2018, when RCP separately piloted modules on repair and maintenance of community solar systems, and TekPak assembly and repairs.

Last March 2018, RCP trained five volunteers from Pilipinas, a nonprofit organization who addresses climate crisis through a global grassroots climate movement. Participants learned the hands-on assembly of the TekPak, and the device they developed was used during the observance of 2018 Earth Day with environmentalists and Catholic parishioners at the San Remedios Parish Church in Malate, Manila.

A Solar Scholars training on repair and maintenance of community solar systems was also held last April 2018 in Brgy. Sulu-an, with 24 participants composed of Sulong Sulu-an members, youth, fisherfolk, and community technicians. The 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. Women from Sulu-an island, as primary users of solar energy in their respective households, expressed their need for this workshop to enhance their skills in utilizing solar technology.

Volunteers and technical staff from Institute of Climate and Sustainable Cities, Pilipinas and Greenpeace Philippines conduct a post Ompong TekPak training and assembly workshop to the locals of Baggao and Alcala Cagayan.

ICSC organized a new batch of Solar Scholars Training on TekPak assembly in the aftermath of Typhoon Mangkhut. Volunteers from RE-Serve Humanitarian Corps, Pilipinas, Greenpeace Philippines, 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 due to damages caused by Typhoon Mangkhut.

ICSC 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 for communities affected by typhoons and other calamities.

Equipping women to train more women to be solar scholars

Five women from RE-Serve, Solar Scholars pool and ICSC convened in October 2018 to review the Solar Scholars module and discuss 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, RE-Serve, 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.

The facilitators discussed how gender roles on energy access, use, and management shifted in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, and established the responsibilities of women in energy conservation and renewable energy systems operations, use, and management. The solar scholars were able to arrange a community drill simulation among residents of Barangay Amantillo, Marabut, Samar, focusing on how mass evacuations can be powered using Solar TekPaks.

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. It provides services on solar systems and bridges customers with reliable renewable energy power providers.

The first locator, Power4All, set-up a display of solar power systems and clean water solutions in the RE-Hub. 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 is a critical guide that helps fishermen and boatmen avoid coral reefs as they navigate the coastal shores of the island.

ICSC powered the floating outpost of Barangay Sulangan’s Bantay Dagat (sea patrol) with a 150-watt solar power system that guarded the Guiuan marine reserve in December 2018. 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

A community-wide consultation for the Small Island Grid Electrification (SIGE) Sulu-an project was held 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).

ICSC 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.

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

ICSC hosted student interns and researchers from various universities to conduct research and pursue innovation projects within the RCP facility. Nine 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. A geography student from University of Waterloo helped RCP conduct the energy baseline survey in Sulu-an island, Guiuan, Eastern Samar. ICSC 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.

ICSC also facilitated 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

RCP continues to share its working experience with a diverse range of audiences.

  • Through an interactive exhibit, ICSC shared renewable energy-powered applications that support health service delivery, particularly in emergency disaster situations during the Healthy Island Conference in Davao City, with participants composed of health ministers from Climate Vulnerable Forum member countries;
  • 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 the same city, 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.