DEPT OF ENERGY'S  BIG  SWITCH

MANILA, JULY 27, 2008
(STAR) By Rachel Williamson - A revolution has been taking place in the Philippines for the last four years, a revolution to change how Filipinos see their homes and businesses.

In 2005 the Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Philippine Efficient Lighting Market Transformation Project (PELMATP) to encourage the use of energy- efficient lighting.

Today, the goals of saving 2,704 gigawatt hours of electricity and preventing 497 gigagrams of carbon emissions over the five-year project are looking highly achievable.

DOE director Raquel Huliganga said the best way to know whether the project is having an effect is through Department of Trade and Industry import documents. These say that from 2006 to 2007 alone there was a 56 percent increase in imports of compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). That figure was for only one of the big players in the market.

Industry feedback, DOE surveys and the number of businesses and individuals wanting to get involved in PELMATP are other ways of calculating how effective the campaign has been.

“They are coming to us one after another… since this project is a win-win proposition they all want to stand up and be counted,” Huliganga says.

PELMATP project manager Noel Verdote says consumers are realizing the benefits CFLs have over incandescent bulbs.

One vendor at a market in Bacolod used to prefer incandescent bulbs as the color made the produce look fresher, only to discover the heat it gave off was making the food decay faster, and that he could get a CFL with the same hue.

“The right drivers are there. We have the ever increasing cost of energy, we have the problem of climate change. [These] are the factors helping people change to energy efficient lighting,” Verdote says.

PELMATP works with community partners to help them change to CFLs, with the first CFL launch in August 2005 involving Smile City Homes in Quezon City.

The latest conversion was done at the Bacolod market on June 12. Huliganga said the partial conversion would save Bacolod market operators almost P1 million a year and they were so pleased with the results PELMATP has been asked to come back and finish the job.

The Commission on Higher Education has also just approved the electrical engineering component of illumination to include energy efficient lighting.

It hasn’t been all plain sailing though, as the first two years of the project were “difficult,” admits Huliganga.

PELMATP was conceived eight years ago and it took four years to design a program that climate change financer GEF (Global Environment Facility) approved of. GEF promised to give a dollar for every four dollars the Philippines puts towards the project.

At first money was so tight it was too expensive to move around the country teaching people about the new technology and retro-fitting businesses.

The DOE had to ask for donations, but now “they come to us instead of us going to them,” Huliganga says of both consumers and financers.

Verdote says when CFL vendors realized the project was not going to promote particular products, just the use of the technology, support “dried up” at the end of 2006. Demand has grown, however, so CFL industry support has too.

The price is still putting people off, as the price of an incandescent bulb is about P25 and a CFL costs about P130.

Huliganga says the benefits far outweigh the cost though, as a CFL has a lifespan five to 10 times longer than the old bulb.

The difference is between 5,250 and 9,000 hours of use.

According to figures provided by PELMATP, a CFL lit for eight hours a day and costing P8.83/kWh in electricity will yield annual savings of P206.23.

Part of PELMATP’s objective is to make the energy efficient bulbs affordable and available to ordinary people. To help consumers get over the cost it offers micro-financing.

ESCO’s, or energy service companies, are the main feature of this plan.

Huliganga says an ESCO would offer retro-fitting service at no cost to the consumer and it would be paid out of the electricity savings over a period of time.

Aside from the benefits to the consumer, Huliganga is just as excited about the potential carbon credits this project could net for the Philippines.

She says if $30 million is spent on CFL distribution, $10 million could be gotten back in carbon credits on top of the energy savings.

“We are really taking our time to refine the methodology for this in order to be eligible in this area,” she says.

PELMATP has three components that aim to inform and help people use the new technology; impose minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for energy efficient lights; create guidelines to ensure a continued legacy after December 2009; and waste management.

Florescent lights contain a small amount of mercury – about five milligrams – which, Huliganga says, is less than a thermometer or a watch battery. But when thrown away in large numbers, it can become a problem.

PELMATP is currently looking at schemes to address this potential problem, such as producers having to be responsible for disposing of CFLs they had sold, or a buy-back system.

As to the legacy, a 2007 administrative order means all government offices must change to energy efficient lighting by July, and in April a memorandum of agreement between the DOE, the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Local Government signaled a commitment to follow the PELMATP guidelines.

The anticipated success of PELMATP has spawned a spin-off project which, pending approval, will start in January 2009. It will be funded by a $30-million loan from the Asian Development bank, payable with carbon credits.

Huliganga explains the new project would focus on retro-fitting, the national distribution of energy efficient lights and would look at street and traffic lighting.

The government’s desire to see incandescent bulbs banned by 2010, a first in Asia, has also given PELMATP officials extra motivation to meet their goal of having incandescent lights permanently switched off by 2009.

For more information on switching to CFLs, contact the DOE-PELMATP at tel. 840-1401 to 21.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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