Crowdfunded solar generators bring light to remote Philippine communities

After 20 years without electricity, more than 50 households in Cebu's poorest district have been provided with solar energy, financed by carbon offsets.

Crowd-funded solar lamps by Light of Hope PH from Eco-Business on Vimeo.

Solar panels are usually sold commercially in the Philippines, as in the rest of the world, but a new sector is emerging, where energy from the sun is financed through crowdfunding. 

Light of Hope PH, a grassroots movement based in Cebu in the Visayas region of the Philippines, has come up with an online platform where anyone in the world can offset their carbon footprint by funding solar generators to off-the-grid Filipino communities. 

For Jovy Montajes, founder of Light of Hope PH, it has been a way to provide electricity to 53 homes with about 8,000 residents in one of the poorest areas outside of Cebu City. 

“A lot of the residents have not experienced electric power at home their entire lives. They have become frustrated with the many challenges faced with getting their own electricity,” Montajes told Eco-Business.

Locals in remote districts like Barangay Pulangbato village, 14 kilometers from metropolitan Cebu, do not bear official land titles to their homes, which is a requirement for electricity lines to be installed, he explained. 

“In order to take matters into our own hands, we began crowdfunding to raise enough money to get solar generator projects off the ground more quickly,” he said.

Since the launch of the crowdfunding site in November, the platform has raised close to US$6,000, mostly from European donors — enough to fund about 30 units for 30 homes. The rest of the solar generators were funded through cash prizes Light of Hope PH won in competitions such as those held by international non-profit The Global Green Growth Institute. 

In Western countries, especially in Europe, energy crowdfunding platforms already exist, with investors raising millions of euros to finance large-scale projects like windmills and solar panels for local communities.

Montajes’ venture targets rural, urban poor and island communities which spend about US$1 a day for four to five hours of electricity from traditional diesel-powered generators. 

Each solar generator set costs US$190, a steep price for residents, but if donors pay for them, then residents get to own the units and spend a mere US$0.18 a day for 24 hours a day, seven days a week clean energy access. 

Light of Hope PH has also assigned point persons in the community who users can turn to if they need their batteries or bulbs replaced for free. 

Each unit can power lights, wifi routers, charge mobile devices, and other applicances and is equipped with a built-in IoT monitoring system for energy usage and GPS locations.

“Residents do not need to pay for the maintenance or repair of units. We only ask them to pay a small daily amount to give them a sense of responsiblity and not take their free lamps for granted,” said Montajes. 

With the current number of beneficiaries, the solar generators have already reduced 5,065 kilogrammes of carbon emissions, equivalent to the amount of energy needed to charge 616,120 smartphones. 

Montajes is aiming to raise enough to fund 1,000 units by the end of the year for remote areas of Cebu, the nearby province of Bohol and communities in Mindanao. 

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