How practical is solar power for PH home owners?

A Makati homeowner shares how he is able to cut his electricity bill by half using solar power

Pia Ranada

Published 9:29 AM, Jul 26, 2014

Updated 6:27 PM, Jul 28, 2014

SUN-POWERED. Mike De Guzman has installed a device that turns electricity generated by his solar panels into a form that can power his appliances. All photos by Pia Ranada/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Mike De Guzman is one of the few Filipinos who looks forward to receiving his monthly electricity bill. In the past 8 months, he’s been paying less and less for his power usage. If he used to pay around P24,000 (US$555*) to electrify his two-story, 3-bedroom house in Makati, now he has been paying only half, around P12,000 ($277). On good months, he has even gotten it down to P9,000 ($208).

He and his wife whoop for joy as they read a Meralco bill that had just arrived – P9,500 ($220).

Why the lower bill? Did electricity get cheaper without the rest of Metro Manila knowing it? In a way, yes. For the past months, the De Guzman household has been getting around 80% of their electricity from the sun. Their home’s roof is strapped with 20 solar panels that produce an average of 675 kilo-Watt-hours (kWh) or P8,000 ($185) of electricity a month.

From 8 am to 5 pm, the De Guzman home is powered by the sun. At night, when the sun too must sleep, the normal Meralco grid kicks in.

Is this cheating? Nope. In fact, the De Guzman household is one of the first to make use of a renewable energy program of Meralco called net metering.

Net metering allows households to sell back excess electricity generated by their renewable energy systems and use them as credits to lower their electricity bill the next month. (READ:Renewable energy use gaining worldwide – IEA)

Meralco came up with the program to comply with the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 which allows each homeowner to have up to100 kWp (kilo-Watt peak) of installed solar panels under net metering. (READ: DOE to add more renewable energy in grid by 2014)

In June, Meralco announced they had finalized the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for the net metering program.

Plugged into the sun

De Guzman became a bonafide champion of solar energy a year ago when he bought his first solar panel.

“I put it in this house, I turned it on, I turned on my aircon and the meter wasn’t moving. Then I knew I stumbled upon something,” he told Rappler.

ABUNDANT. Mike De Guzman’s wide roof is an ideal place to install solar panels.

At that point, he was close to desperate to find a cheaper energy solution. His family owns a call center, an apartment building and hotel, which all use vast amounts of power. Couple that with Philippine electricity rates (around P11 to P13 per kWh or $0.25 to $0.30), one of the highest in the world.

The abundant sun tends to be overly-generous. On summer days when the sun shines longer, De Guzman’s solar panels produce up to 34 kWh as it did last May. This is enough to run an aircon for 45 hours.

Often, he has more energy than he needs.

“I had so much power I didn’t even know what to do with it. Last summer, I just turned on my aircon and put the dog in the living room because I had a lot of power. I could use 3 aircons and not use a watt from Meralco.”

So he visited the Meralco office in Pasig City asking for a program that would buy his excess solar power from him. After several letters and the pressure of the Renewable Energy Act, Meralco launched its net metering program in September 2013.

The program allows the De Guzmans to use their solar panels for their daytime electricity consumption. At night, they use their subdivision’s Meralco grid which they pay for monthly.

But if their solar panels generate more electricity than they use (as is usually the case), the excess energy goes to Meralco’s grid to be used by other customers.

Meralco “pays” for this extra energy by subtracting the cost of that electricity from the De Guzman’s bill the next month.

The family is able to save even more by combining net metering with Meralco’s Peak/Off-Peak (POP) program.

The POP program means that, instead of charging you the same rate for electricity, Meralco will charge a higher rate for daytime consumption and a lower rate for night-time consumption.

This is because demand for power in the daytime is higher than at night.

Currently, Meralco’s POP daytime rate (average generation charge) is P7.50 ($0.17) per kWh while it’s evening rate is P3.50 ($0.08) per kWh.

Meralco “buys” De Guzman’s excess electricity for P5.50 ($0.13) per kWh. So even if he still pays for the electricity he uses at night, he gets credited more per kWh he generates in excess.

“It comes in handy if you go for vacation for a month or you’re out of the country. Then when you come back, you’re going to have a lot of credits because your panels were generating energy all that time. Eventually you’ll use it all up within the year,” said De Guzman.