Bernardo M. Villegas
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The Youth and Climate Change

           In the text of the speech that he did not deliver at the UST Campus on Sunday, January 18, 2015, Pope Francis suggested three key areas where the Filipino youth can make a contribution to Philippine society.  The second he mentioned was to show concern for the environment:  “This is not only because this country, more than many others, is likely to be seriously affected by climate change.  You are called to care for creation not only as responsible citizens but also as followers of Christ….”  One concrete way in which the millions of school-going Filipino youth can contribute to a sustainable environment is to join in the advocacy for the schools in which they study to be part of what has been referred to as the “solar power bandwagon.”  The pioneer in this move to solar power is the University of Asia and the Pacific in Pasig, Rizal that installed a photovoltaic power system in its Parking and Sports (PSB) Building which can generate up to 300 kilowatts of electricity, making it the first campus in the country to implement the use of solar energy.  If this move snowballs among the hundreds of schools even in Metro Manila alone, the Department of Energy estimates that up to 270 MW of power could be generated, lowering power costs of the schools.  Already, Manuel L. Quezon University, Mapua Institute of Technology and La Consolacion College-Manila, among others, are following the example of UA&P.

          Solar power is the conversion of sunlight into electricity.  This can be achieved either directly, using panels made up of solar cells acting as semiconductors to produce the photovoltaic effect or indirectly, using mirrors and lenses to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam that converts the heat into electricity employing a conventional generator.  In 2008, the Government enacted Republic Act No. 9513, which essentially promotes the development, utilization and commercialization of renewable energy resources such as biomass, solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and ocean energy sources, including hybrid systems in order to reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, thus minimizing the exposure to global fuel price fluctuations and the environmental impact of global warming, which affects all sectors of the economy.

          One of the institutional goals and ideals contained in the Statement of Principles of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) is to be always sensitive to social problems and open to opportunities to contribute to understanding and cooperation.  It was recognized that threats to the environment and their consequential impact can lead to social as well as economic problems for the country.  The construction of the Parking and Sports Building in 2013 created the opportunity to install a photovoltaic solar power system for the building at the suggestion of one of the alumni of UA&P’s executive education program called the Strategic Business Economics Program (SBEP) Mr. Ericson Maquinto of TBS Industrial Services, Inc. proposed to install a solar system with a total of capacity of 300 kilowatt (KW).  The proposal included a mutually beneficial financial arrangement for its acquisition.

          The aesthetic and structural contribution of the solar panels covering the steel roofing sheets would significantly reduce the cost for heat insulation off the roof.  Additionally the solar panels would minimize significantly the noise of raindrops during heavy rains and even provide better protection from water levels.  It is estimated that, once fully operational, the PSB would only need 60 KW of power to provide for its lighting, air-conditioning, elevator and other electrical loads.  The balance of 240 KW solar power capacity would be fed on-grid for the power requirements of the other campus buildings in tandem with the power supply from Meralco.  After ten years of full operation, the system will provide the university with free 300KW of electricity.  When the system was switched on last May 28, 2014, Meralco charged about Php12.80 per kwhr, a rate that had been historically increasing depending on the generation charges by their power suppliers.  If the pending application for a Php4 rate increase were to be granted by the Energy Regulatory Commission, the resulting price Meralco would be charging would be Php16 per kwhr.  Given these figures, UA&P would be saving up to an estimated Php 230,000 per month or Php 2.76 million annually using solar power.

          In addition to the installation in the PSB of the solar power system, the PSB has also been constructed to reuse water, avail of a state-of-the-art fire protection system, and extensively utilize energy-efficient LED lights.  These environmental initiatives are included in the international agency recognition that UA&P has received from the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) based in Amsterdam. This agency, which is a private initiative that makes sustainability reporting a standard practice worldwide, is helping organizations manage their economic, environmental, social and governance performances consistently at high global standards.  UA&P was the first university in Southeast Asia to be granted a sustainability disclosure level check in 2013. UA&P is the second building in the Ortigas center to be solar-powered.  The first was the Asian Development Bank. 

          The solar power system of UA&P was installed by TBS Industrial Services Inc. Schools and other institutions interested in being part of the “solar power bandwagon” may get in touch with Mr. Ericson Maquinto at  the email address  ebmaquinto@tbsindustrial.com or celfone number 0920 962 7567. For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia