Since 1984, SIBAT has fostered a network of dedicated, local champions committed to advancing sustainable solutions in their communities. A country-wide Filipino people’s network, SIBAT supports renewable energy applications, sustainable agriculture techniques, and water access solutions.
SIBAT’s community-based, sustainable approach has enabled long-lasting energy access for many communities in Abra, Philippines. Last year, SIBAT upgraded the Barangay Dulao micro hydro system, which had been in operation for 25 years! Local capacity building is an important element of their sustainable approach, and is supported through training offered at SIBAT’s Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATech) in Capas, Tarlac, Philippines. In fact, SIBAT takes part in knowledge sharing to build capacity across the region; for instance, in 2019, practitioners from Philippines and Malaysia gathered for a training session on Pelton micro hydro turbine fabrication, organized by SIBAT and HPNET.
To stay in the loop on SIBAT’s inspiring community-centred work, we encourage you to scroll through and ‘like’ SIBAT’s Facebook page. There you’ll find insightful updates on technical training for local community members, open source mini-grid management tools, videos featuring socio-economic impacts of energy access, and much more. Recently, SIBAT has shared updates on their efforts to distribute facemasks and supplies to vulnerable, indigenous communities. Be sure to ‘like’ SIBAT’s page to show your support and learn about their ongoing initiatives.
SIBAT is a Filipino network and people’s organization advancing community-based renewable energy applications, sustainable agriculture techniques, and water access solutions. We continue to be impressed by SIBAT’s highly integrated, community-based approach to clean energy access, which provides valuable lessons for the sector when it comes to achieving sustainability and socioeconomic impact.
Barangay Dulao Micro Hydro Project
SIBAT’s programs have been severely hindered by movement restrictions and other challenges imposed by the COVID-19 crisis, as has been the case for the vast majority of HPNET’s partner organizations and members. However, with many promising initiatives in the works, the SIBAT team hopes to resume regular operations before long, to commence new activities and resume various ongoing projects.
A significant ongoing initiative is a project led by SIBAT in cooperation with Misereor, to upgrade the micro hydro system of Barangay Dulao, Malibcong Abra. The remote, indigenous community of Barangay Dulao is a 6 hour drive from the nearest town of Bangued, and predominantly consists of rice farmers. Installed in 1995, the Barangay Dulao micro hydro project (MHP) was the first community-based renewable energy system in the province. Construction of the initial system was led by the late SIBAT consultant, Chris Alfonzo, with support from De La Salle University. Running on a 10kW crossflow turbine, the MHP provides 100% coverage in the Barangay, providing electricity to 67 households, a school, a church and a hydro-powered rice mill.
A Community-Based Approach
The Barangay Dulao MHP was implemented according to SIBAT’s participatory approach, with substantive community involvement. The local People’s Organization of Barangay Dulao owns, manages and sustains the system, self-organizing to harness the wide-reaching benefits of the MHP. In addition to powering household lighting, the micro hydro system powers food and crop processing, supporting household needs and expanding livelihood opportunities.
This video from SIBAT offers a glimpse of the community-based approach implemented in the Barangay Dulao system, which follows the approach of SIBAT’s broader Community-based Renewable Energy System (CBRES) program:
25 Years of Community-Based MHP in Abra
As the pioneer of micro hydro projects (MHPs) in Abra, the Barangay Dulao system served as a model which was later replicated in more than 10 barangays and sitios across the province. The MHP thus initiated a turning point for the indigenous people of Abra, bringing clean and reliable energy access with multifold benefits for community development. The micro hydro communities now have improved access to information via televisions and radio sets, students can extend their studies into evening hours, women’s burden is reduced with access to electric appliances, and income opportunities are expanded via MHP-powered livelihood activities.
The communities who own and manage the systems have collectively worked to maximize the socioeconomic returns of their local resources, with continuous technical support provided by SIBAT. The robust infrastructure and ongoing support offered by SIBAT is complemented by the community-based, participatory approach described above -- a combination that has proven its efficacy and impact in Abra over the past quarter-century.
After 25 years of operation, the Barangay Dulao system is in need of repair and rehabilitation. The system currently operates 8 hours per week, with several downtimes due to lack of water and malfunctioning electromechanical components. Thus, the main objective of the upgrade is to provide stable power for 24 hours operation within a week, through the improvement of existing technical components.
The SIBAT team consulted the community People’s Organization (PO) regarding the technical needs of their MHP. The PO suggested: canal improvement, to mitigate downtimes by improving the efficiency of water entering the turbine; upgrading electromechanical components inside the powerhouse (e.g. upgrading generator capacity); and installing an electronic load controller (ELC) to regulate peak hour loads and produce reliable electricity that can accommodate more micro hydro-powered enterprises in the future.
The final plan for the MHP upgrade integrates the results of the community consultation and the findings of the SIBAT technical team. The project will facilitate improvements to civil, electro-mechanical, and mechanical components of the system, as well as installation of an ELC. SIBAT will lead the electro-mechanical and electrical components, and the community and Barangay LGU will lead the civil works. Implementation of the ELC will draw on expertise which the SIBAT team continues to expand and refine, including through collaboration with regional partners, such as their 2019 knowledge exchange with Tonibung, in Malaysia. The project team hopes to complete commissioning for the Dulao MHP upgrade this year.
See here for more information on SIBAT’s work advancing community-based, small-scale hydropower in the Philippines.
Since 1993, Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group, Inc. has been working with rural, indigenous populations to improve socio-economic and environmental well-being in Mindanao, Philippines. Since its inception, Yamog has championed a holistic approach to rural electrification and development, leveraging co-benefits of clean energy solutions to catalyze sustainable positive change in marginalized communities.
Currently, although operations have been significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Yamog has several promising, ongoing initiatives underway. Two significant projects were initiated in 2020, and the Yamog team is hopeful that progress on these initiatives will pick up later this year.
Sustainable Energy and Safe Drinking Water in Davao Occidental
One of Yamog’s main ongoing projects centres around the promotion of a locally-operated electricity and water supply system in Sitio Danao, Barangay Pangaleon Municipality of Malita Province of Davao Occidental-Mindana, Philippines. Funded by Misereor-KZE Germany, this project will establish a 26 kW capacity micro hydro system in Sitio Danao.
The Yamog team is grateful for the contributions of HPNET Board Member Gerhard Fisher and company from Pt Entec Indonesia, who fabricated the turbine and electro-mechancial equipment for this project. Following up on a collaboration facilitated by HPNET in 2018, and knowledge exchange activities in 2019, Pt Entec and Yamog continue to collaborate to advance high quality micro hydro equipment in community based projects in Mindanao.
Through this project, Yamog aims to improve the quality of life of the Tagakaulo tribal community, via a participatory approach to community development. Substantive community involvement is prioritized, in order to harness local social capital and build the community’s capacity to manage and sustain the project. This collaborative, participatory approach is very much in line with the local culture, reflecting the spirit of “bayanihan” (communal activities).
Community collaboration has been central, not only in the establishment of the MHP, but also in the promotion of watershed protection and restoration in the Tagakaulo’s ancestral land. The community association, watershed committee and volunteers have collectively carried out resource mapping and planning to mitigate and prevent further environmental destruction and strengthen the watershed ecosystem. They aim to conserve 390 hectares of the watershed, plant 5,000 fruit-bearing and native trees and establish a community-managed nursery, mandating that each member of the community association plant 5 trees every year. To date, they have successfully transplanted around 30% of their total target number of trees.
Yamog, furthermore, aims to promote gender equity through the project, and women have played an important role in activities thus far. One of the project’s core activities focuses on developing sustainable livelihoods for women, to respond to the gendered impacts of energy poverty and limited economic opportunities, and to leverage the valuable role that women play within community development. The community association’s general assembly also voted for a woman to be their chairperson, acknowledging her strong leadership capabilities.
The project team has not yet been able to install the electro-mechanical equipment for the MHP, as their engineers aren’t able to travel to the beneficiary community due to COVID-related restrictions. However, Yamog hopes to complete installation by September or October 2020, so that the community will have electricity access before Christmastime.
Sustainable Energy Project in Mindanao
Another ongoing project at Yamog is called “Improving the Lives of People in Off-Grid Communities in Mindanao through the Provision of Sustainable Energy”, funded by the European Union and Misereor-KZE Germany. This project will establish 6 MHPs and 2,876 solar home lighting systems, serving 4,000 poor, mostly indigenous, households in Mindanao.
The project has four key components: Installation of an energy mix of solar power and micro hydropower; holistic approach in water resource management through a community-driven forest protection initiative; development of local people’s management and technical capacities, and promoting good local governance; and providing a physical center for technical servicing, research and training.
For the last component, Yamog is in the process of setting up the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Technologies (ReSET) Center, where practitioners will learn how to fabricate turbines and other electro-mechanical MHP components, as well as other renewable energy technologies (solar, wind, biogas). The ReSET Center will serve as the hub of renewable energy development in Mindanao, where Yamog will also conduct research and trainings to pass on the RE technologies to grassroots communities.
Last month, practitioners from Philippines and Malaysia gathered for a training session on Pelton micro hydro turbine fabrication. The session was the second part of a two-part training organized by HPNET and Sibol Ng Agham At Teknolohiya (SIBAT), to strengthen local capacities in fabrication and manufacturing.
The training responded to the knowledge exchange needs of HPNET Members in the Philippines and Malaysia who require skills to design and build Pelton micro hydro turbines.
Following an online training in November, the in-person training ran from December 2 - 7 and was held at SIBAT's Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATech) in Capas, Tarlac, Philippines. The overall aim was for participants to acquire knowledge of the design, manufacturing and testing of Pelton turbines, including fabrication of the Pelton runner assembly.
Participants benefited from an opportunity for hands-on learning, in addition to technical and theoretical presentations.
Within Pelton Turbine Design, sub-topics covered included:
The resource person for this training was HPNET Member Mr. Ajith Kumara from Simple Engineering, a senior micro and mini hydropower specialist based in Sri Lanka. Mr. Kumara has extensive experience training practitioners in design and fabrication aspects of various electro-mechanical components of small-scale hydropower.
This training was made possible by SIBAT, WISIONS and Simple Engineering.
HPNET members in Indonesia and the Philippines are joining forces to provide high quality micro hydro equipment to community-based projects in Mindanao.
The ASEAN Centre for Hydropower Competance (HYCOM) and Pt Entec Indonesia, both global experts for micro hydro technology transfer, are supporting the Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group, Inc., the pioneering NGO committed for nearly three decades to providing electricity to marginalized communities in Mindanao, to explore establishing local manufacturing of cross-flow turbines.
After multiple online exchanges, in June 2019 HPNET Board members Gerhard Fischer and Ardi Nugraha visited Yamog in Davao City to gauge the local team's capacity for local manufacturing. Then in October 2019, Yamog's technical leads visit Pt Entec and HYCOM in Bandung, Indonesia to better understand quality standards practiced in Indonesia. The collaboration is gradually moving toward the goal of locally manufactured cross-flow turbines in Mindanao.
HPNET facilitated the start of collaboration between PT Entec and Yamog in 2018 and the network has benefited immensely from the ongoing contributions of both organizations. It is great to see continuous knowledge exchange (often self-initiated, as in this case) between these long-standing HPNET Members.
This week, the SIBAT and CREATech team, from Luzon, Philippines, took the initiative to complement their 25 years of micro hydro development in the northern Philippines with a learning visit to Tonibung and CREATE’s work in Sabah, Borneo Malaysia. Tonibung has been the pioneer of community-based micro hydro systems in Malaysia for 25+ years, focusing on indigenous communities and social enterprise. Tonibung closely collaborates with Green Empowerment. HPNET's collective knowledge has been greatly enriched by the active membership of all five organizations.
The SIBAT team took time to understand Tonibung’s local manufacturing developments and their approach to linking MHPs to social enterprise for scaling productive end use.
The team visited Longkogungan village and Kalanggaan village, along with Tonibung staff members Bill Baxter and Willery Larry, and Green Empowerment staff member Dan Frydman.
Here is what SIBAT engineer Ms. Benazir Bacala has to say about the recent visit:
“Visiting the sites of Tonibung made me appreciate more the work of NGOs. It was an adventure that we could never forget, risky hiking, lots of crossing rivers...Very inspiring how Tonibung and its staff were also able to reach those villages in remote areas to provide sustainable energy to the communities and their efforts and dedication to help the people.
We learned a lot about their MHP with Pelton turbines, both direct couple and belt-driven systems, that were locally manufactured at CREATE.”
Earlier this year we launched the Hidden No More feature series to spotlight women change-makers who have transformed gender barriers, and made significant contributions to energy access for marginalized communities.
In this 3rd edition, in honor of the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples earlier this Quarter, we’re excited to feature Ms. Jade Angngalao, an accomplished indigenous community leader who is a coordinator for community-based micro hydro in the Philippines. We had the opportunity to connect with Ms. Jade and gain insight into her inspiring journey and vision.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have been involved in community development work for 9 years. For the past 2 years I have been Coordinator of the Renewable Energy Program at Sibol Ng Agham At Teknolohiya (SIBAT). I am a member of the Kalinga tribe, from a mountainous area in the North of the Philippines. I am also a mother of two daughters (which poses a challenge in terms of balancing and prioritizing my different responsibilities).
What motivated you to work in the field of energy access?
I first became aware of micro hydropower (MH) when SIBAT implemented an MHP in my hometown. Previously we didn’t have electricity access, since the electric co-op (the main grid provider) did not reach our town. My father was the one who led the community to participate in the construction of our village micro hydro system. As a young person, I was also involved in building the system, for example, by helping to transport sand.
When the MHP was being constructed, I was also studying Agricultural Engineering at Kalinga State University, and working part-time at the Affiliated RE Centre (a university research centre). When one of the engineers heard of my studies, he suggested that I apply to work with SIBAT after graduating.
For my thesis, I decided to evaluate and report on the sustainability of MHPs in the North. My findings were that most of the systems were no longer operational and there were no plans to repair them. After being implemented, most systems were handed over to the local communities; the communities used the systems for about 5 years before most became non-operational. In most cases, the local MH operator had damaged, or was unable to maintain the system as a result of inadequate training and a lack of proper capacity building. I created a report to give to the Department of Agriculture; however, repairing the MHPs was not a priority, as solar home system were the focus, at the time. I felt that it was a waste of money to build MH systems in very remote communities and then leave them without any support for maintenance and management.
This experience motivated me to work on building communities’ capacity to sustain their MH, rather than leaving them without support, post-construction. I was driven to implement capacity-building measures such as training on maintenance and management, in order for MH communities to become independent and for community-based projects to operate sustainably. Most of the existing systems in my region were based on old designs which required a lot of maintenance. I saw a need for these systems to be upgraded, to give the villages quality electricity, and to improve local management and system sustainability.
How did you start your career with SIBAT?
I was hired by SIBAT in 2010 as part of the technical staff working in potable water and irrigation systems, in remote sites in Mindanao. The sites were so remote that it took two days to reach most of them (and we had to carry our own food along the way). This is when I saw the vulnerable situation of the villages in these areas. There were very high rates of poverty, with many families eating just one meal per day. The villages were deprived of basic social services, with no formal education, health care, clean source of water, or electricity - no government support whatsoever.
This was when I promised myself to continue to work to help the communities there. I felt a kinship with the local people, because I also belong to an indigenous tribe, and had faced a similar reality growing up. These were ‘my people’ and I wanted them to experience the benefits of MH that were felt in my own community.
The irrigation project I was initially working on did not materialize because of the remoteness of the community - 15 hours were needed to walk there and it was very difficult to bring in materials, and also to mobilize the people. In any case, I think it would make more sense to give local training on agricultural techniques before focusing on irrigation projects. Subsequently, I was involved in a solar water project in the southern part of Luzon, before I took part in any MHP work. It was quite difficult starting out and, after three years, I almost quit my job. However, I stayed because I was passionate about the work and was encouraged by some individuals.
What sort of challenges did you face?
I nearly quit my job because some of my seniors expected too much of me. As the youngest team member, I was expected to be full of ideas, gutsy and energetic, but I have my limitations, of course. The program was also dominated by men. As the only woman in the group, I was often the centre of jokes, which were sometimes very offensive.
My senior, Chris Alfonso, encouraged me. He was a SIBAT engineer who had played a big role in the capacity-building of the SIBAT team. He mentored me in potable water and irrigation and I learned a lot from him. His life was short-lived, but we will always be grateful for his mentorship and his vision for SIBAT’s Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology (CREATech), where we now manufacture micro hydro turbines and electronic load controllers.
Tell us about your current work in the MH field.
Currently, I’m working as a coordinator, delegating the team, which is a challenge because the staff is still dominated by men. Lately, I have also been frustrated because we frequently hire an engineer, and invest time and money in training him, only to find that he resigns very soon after starting. They often complain about the small salary or they’re unable to adjust to the culture in the communities where they’re placed. Indigenous communities have a different culture from low-land culture, where these engineers come from. I’ve been encouraging management to hire local, indigenous engineers, who wouldn’t face the same problems around cultural adjustment.
For NGOs that don’t offer large salaries to their engineers, I recommend orienting new engineers to help them understand and adapt to the situation in the communities where they will be working. This can help improve retainment of young engineers.
Community work is very challenging and frustrating at times, but I always tell the staff that they should try to go deeper in developing their understanding of the community.
How do you involve women in your MH work?
When I work in indigenous communities, I have an advantage because I am indigenous myself. This allows me to assert myself in order to include women in decision-making and encourage them to voice their concerns, especially in meetings. Men listen to our opinions and our input is valued and respected.
I believe that women can be the role models to lead people’s organizations. Three of the MHPs I’ve worked on are led by chair-women, and the strong management of the female leaders is reflected in better reporting and book-keeping.
There are still many areas for improvement. For example, in my province, the division of labour is still such that women must do all the household chores and men must provide for the family. When I was starting out in my career, whenever we went to the field, my male seniors would tell me to do the household chores, like cooking. I was proactive in telling management when this happened, but it was difficult. Sometimes I ended up staying back with the community rather than going with my team members, when I couldn’t tolerate being the centre of their jokes.
Yet, I conquered. After years passed, I learned how to fight back and speak out. I resisted until I gained their respect (which took about 5 or 6 years).
What advice do you have for other organizations?
First, you should always include women in decision-making in MH projects. If I had my own organization, I would prefer for it to be dominated by women, primarily because women often have a more holistic approach to community projects.
Additionally, gender awareness and inclusion should start at the internal level, in the organization itself, before any attempt to facilitate it in the community. Gender orientation is included in SIBAT programs on paper, but not in practice. I tell my colleagues we should run gender workshops to teach men how to value and respect women. As an indigenous woman, It’s natural for me to promote this, but I want to see more engagement from others, so that real change will happen.
As for female engineers, my advice is that you should speak up and voice your opinion, don’t be shy!
What is the impact of MH that you have you seen since you started out?
MH has changed many lives in the Philippines. I’ve seen the changes directly in my own village. Before the MHP was installed, we spent a lot of time pounding rice and corn; normally women were the ones doing this work, including the younger generation who would help their mothers and aunties. My mother spent a lot of time doing manual pounding, and I used to help her after school.
It took 4 days of manual pounding for 10-15 kg of rice! In some villages, they had to do this every day. Corn would take 6 hours to pound per day, for just 8mkgs - which would take just 1 hour with a machine (and no labour except for transport). By providing power for rice and corn milling machines, the MHP made life a lot easier for us and saved a lot of time, particularly for women and girls.
I heard that your grandmother was an activist?
Yes, my grandmother was a fierce lady and a strong activist for Indienous rights. She was once featured on National Indigenous Women’s Day by the Cordillera Women’s Education and Research Centre (CWERC). She fought against big geothermal and mining companies in my village. Some of the engineers from a geothermal company installed a system near my grandmother’s rice field. She was very angry and led the community in pulling out the post. She told the engineer, “when you come back, we’re going to kill you; you’re invading out land”.
Is it common for Indigenous women in your tribe to be so strong?
It isn’t really that common now – that’s the problem. My grandmother is no longer there to fight for indigenous land rights and a geothermal company is trying to come again to hold a meeting in the village. Now, there are no women opposing it.
My grandmother got her strength through her genes. She was one of many of my ancestors to fight for our rights. If I go back to my village, I will be the one to lead the movement against the geothermal plant.
It looks like you are mentoring the next generation of MH and agriculture engineers, and they are women! What wish or message do you have for the next generation of MH women practitioners?
Yes, I’ve been supporting a younger engineer and friend, Ms. Bena, to learn how to adapt in indigenous communities. I have also brought my daughters with me to one of SIBAT’s sites to show them my work and to help them understand why I’m sometimes gone for two or three weeks. This also exposes them to the situation of the children there, who are less fortunate. My message to young women MH practitioners would be to appreciate and value their work.
Are there any key messages you have for our readers?
When you are doing community-based MH work, the women should be the first people you try to influence, before the men. This is because the women can lead the men in systemized implementation of the MHP. That is what I’ve learned through my 9 years at SIBAT.
I encourage all women to stay determined and to leave your mark, the way my grandmother did.
Finally, you should be happy with whatever work you are doing; if you’re happy in your job, that is more important than money.
For more journeys of women micro hydro practitioners in our Hidden No More series, please sign up below to receive our newsletter!
We are excited to announce the launch of our new Earth Voices feature series!
To commemorate International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples this quarter, marked annually on August 9 by the United Nations, we are introducing Earth Voices to spotlight indigenous micro hydropower (MH) communities across the region who are sustainably managing communal natural resources and successfully empowering themselves through energy access.
Indigenous communities of South and Southeast Asia are highly diverse, with unique traditions, languages, religious/spiritual beliefs and social structures. One commonality is the link between environmental conservation and indigenous heritage. Indigenous communities play a vital role in safeguarding the region’s rich biodiversity and forest ecosystems. They are often deeply reliant on ecosystem services, and carry an intricate understanding of local ecological relationships.
Due to traditional knowledge and customs around natural resource management, indigenous communities are uniquely positioned to effectively manage community-based energy systems, such as micro hydropower projects. In turn, MH has the potential to strengthen traditional environmental practices and social cohesion, thereby improving the resilience of indigenous communities.
COMMUNITY GOVERNANCE IN TUBO
Tubo is a municipality located in the mountainous Barangai Kili region of Abra, a Northern province of the Philippines. Residents belong to the Maeng tribe and speak the Maeng dialect. The local population is Catholic, but also uphold traditional indigenous rituals and beliefs; spirituality is an important part of everyday life in the community.
Central to Tubo’s governance structure is a Council of Elders, whose opinions are highly respected in the community. The Council is made up of both men and women elders, who play an equal role in decision-making and drafting policies. Municipal elections are held in Tubo, but for mostly perfunctory purposes, as the Council of Elders appoint leaders prior to official elections. The Council also has leverage over the local government, and has successfully influenced local representatives to implement social services, such as government-funded health care, in Tubo.
THE ROLE OF NATURE
Nature is deeply embedded in the Maeng’s traditional beliefs, and plays a significant role in everyday life. Agriculture is the community’s main source of livelihood, and is linked to many local customs, beliefs and festivities; for instance, harvest rituals are important within Maeng culture.
MICRO HYDRO AND RAM PUMP SUCCESS STORY
SOCIAL ENTERPRISE & SELF-EMPOWERMENT
Five years ago, a hot spring resort was established in Tubo by a local people’s organisation, with the approval of the community, Council of Elders and the Barangay Local Government Unit. Led by the Kili Hydro Electric Power Association (KHEPA), the community wants to build new cottages for the resort to meet increasing demand, as well as extend the power from the MHP to two un-electrified sitios.
Together with profits from the resort, the MH has generated enough revenue through tariffs to support the expansion of the system. Thus, with the collected tariffs and some minor support from the municipal government, the community is currently expanding their MHP into a cascading system. A second powerhouse will be implemented upstream (such that the tailwater from the turbine goes to the old forebay), adding an additional 15 kW of capacity. This expansion has the potential to support other productive end use activities, in addition to the resort; sugar cane processing is being considered as potential MHP-powered enterprise.
PRESERVING CULTURE & STRENGTHENING CLIMATE RESILIENCE
Indeed, watershed management plays a highly important role in MHP sustainability. Tubo’s strong customary laws around watershed management have therefore proven very valuable for the management of their system. Moreover, by incentivizing watershed protection and management, the MHP has, in turn, strengthened traditional customary laws and environmental stewardship practices.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MICRO HYDRO AND LARGE HYDRO
By enhancing social cohesion and incentivizing watershed strengthening, the impact of small-scale hydro is quite the opposite of large hydro. The community of Tubo is working to preserve their MHP, and its many social and environmental benefits, resisting external plans to implement a large hydro dam. Large hydropower and other large energy infrastructure often displaces indigenous communities. In Tubo, policies around customary watershed protection laws have so far mitigated the threat of resource development -- from both large hydro and geothermal.
In addition to SIBAT's work on renewable energy, support is also expected to come from a newly established organization called RESILIENCE, founded by Ms. Victoria Lopez, retired executive director of SIBAT. The main goal of RESILIENCE is to build climate resilience in indigenous communities by strengthening the Lapat.
Written by Lara Powell, HPNET Communications Coordinator
HPNET and WISIONS hosted a Deep Dive Workshop at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Asia Clean Energy Forum (ACEF) 2019, entitled Hydro Mini-Grids in the Asia-Pacific: Scaling Inclusive
Enterprise-Based Approaches. Special thanks to the ACEF team, our speakers, and WISIONS for making the rich dialogue possible!
The agenda and speaker bios can be found here. Watch the videos below! Or listen to the audio here.
Part 1 - Examples and Opportunities for Enterprise-based Hydro Mini-Grids
Moderator: Divyam Nagpal
Panelists: Bir Bahadur Ghale, Hydro Concern Ltd., Nepal; Satish Gautam, UNDP Renewable Energy for Rural Livelihoods, Nepal; Sandra Winarsa, Hivos Southeast Asia; Meherban Khan, Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) Pakistan, and Dipti Vaghela, Hydro Empowerment Network
Part 2 - National Programs to Scale-up Enterprise-based Approaches
Moderator: Bikash Pandey, Winrock International
Panelists: Ernesto 'Butch' Silvano, National Energy Administration, Philippines; Trimumpuni, IBEKA, Indonesia, Senator Adrian Banie Lasimbang, Borneo; Sherzad Ali Khan, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN); U Aung Myint, Renewable Energy Association of Myanmar (REAM)
In partnership with the WISIONS of Sustainability Initiative and Energypedia, we are conducting a 4-part, quarterly webinar series on hydro mini-grids -- starting this month. Join us! Details below.
Renewable energy mini-grids are a cost-effective and reliable solution for energy access. Within the technologies available for mini-grids, micro/mini hydropower (MHP) has added advantages. It's techno-economic characteristics, such lower levelized cost of electricity, per kilowatt cost, and no need for battery storage, make it economically viable for grid interconnection and productive end use applications.
Because MHP hardware can be manufactured locally and maintained by local actors, MHP development imparts local skills and jobs, which can evolve into local MHP enterprises. In addition, MHP strengthens catchment area and watershed protection, in turn increasing the climate resilience of vulnerable communities in hilly regions.
The number of hydro mini-grids in rural areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America far exceed other types of mini-grids. As a proven technology with an extensive track record, micro and mini hydropower is the focus in this mini-grid webinar series. The objective of the series is to facilitate exchange among diverse actors advancing small-scale hydro, and promote approaches that lead to long-term success and optimal local benefits. Each of the four webinars will respectively provide insight on MHP reliability, sustainability, financing, and planning for scalability.
WEBINAR 1, MARCH 28, 2019
MINI-GRID RELIABILITY: THE ROLE OF TRAINING CENTERS FOR MICRO/MINI HYDROPOWER
Stay tuned for the upcoming webinars here at this link!
WEBINAR 2, LATE JUNE
MINI-GRID FINANCING: ENABLING THE ROLE OF LOCAL BANKS
WEBINAR 3, LATE SEPTEMBER
MINI-GRID SUSTAINABILITY: TRANSITIONING TO ENTERPRISE-BASED MICRO HYDROPOWER
WEBINAR 4, EARLY DECEMBER
MINI-GRID PLANNING: DATA MAPPING TOOLS FOR MULTI-ACTORS
The 10 poorest provinces of the Philippines are located on the island of Mindanao. As with other marginalized places in our world -- where rural, indigenous populations face social exclusion, frustration, and hopelessness in the face of extractive and inequitable economic and political systems -- portions of the island are controlled by separatist movements, with innocent indigenous communities caught in the crossfire between the government and the rebels. The situation exacerbates efforts to bring infrastructure for basic needs (e.g. potable water and electricity) and magnifies the innate challenges of rural development work in developing contexts.
In March 1993, a small, young, and local group of alternative development professionals came together with the mission to improve the socio-cultural, economic, and environmental well-being in rural Mindanao, by promoting the sustainable utilization and management of appropriate renewable energy sources and other natural resources. Versed in technical, ecological, and social aspects of sustainable rural development, the group was called Yamog, translating as dew drops in the Cebuano language.
Distinct from the conventional community development approaches at the time, the pioneers of the Yamog Renewable Energy Development Group, Inc., pursued a path that was anchored on renewable energy as a springboard towards positive, meaningful and enduring change at the grassroots level, to end decades of deprivation. It pioneered utilizing renewable energy, not only to lessen the dependence of poor communities on fossil fuels, but also to offer it as a vehicle for marginalized communities to become sustainable.
When Yamog was established 20-years ago, nearly half of Mindanao was un-electrified. Even now Mindinao's largest city faces daily blackouts lasting 12 hours. Yet, the nearly 2500 households that have electrified their villages with Yamog's help do not have to rely on the central grid and can access 24/7 electricity. Yamog continues to facilitate other communities in rural Mindanao and Visayas in generating their own electricity from micro hydro or solar power.
The effectiveness of Yamog's work is rooted its integrated approach to community-based micro hydropower. In each project, Yamog's long-experienced staff of 7 are committed to instilling the environmental, institutional, social, and technical aspects that are critical to the project's life.
Watershed protection and strengthening
Because the output of any micro hydropower unit is dependent on the stream flow, Yamog's implementation process starts with a focus on rehabilitating the source of the stream -- the watershed. Yamog works closely with the community to evaluate, protect, and strengthen the watershed of the proposed micro hydro site. After signs of a robust watershed and the community's will to preserve it emerge, Yamog moves onto installing the micro hydro hardware.
The process can add an extra year to the project implementation, often with additional communities to facilitate (e.g. where the upstream community managing the watershed is km's away from the micro hydro community downstream). Yet, with increasing climate change impacting not only micro hydro but also the community's access to drinking and irrigation water, prioritizing resilient watersheds is well worth the added effort and time.
Involvement of local government
A key aspect to Yamog's work is facilitating communities to generate support from the leaders of their barangay (the most local administrative unit) for watershed strengthening and micro hydropower implementation. Although challenging, this process has resulted in community hydropower units that have greater vested stake from the local government, and a paved path for the community to reach out to local officials regarding other village development needs. Support from local government can also help establish productive use for community income generation from micro hydropower, e.g. financing of agro processing units such oil mills and rice hullers.
Community governance of the technology
In parallel to watershed strengthening and micro hydro installation, Yamog facilitates the community to identify its governing strengths and build upon them, in order to develop a unified governance of the new micro hydropower unit. Yamog staff build the capacity of community leaders to manage and lead project implementation from its start. At various stages Yamog holds in-depth technical and institutional training for community members. This has ensured that by the time of commissioning electricity generation, the community's governance structure can independently manage the electricity tariff collection, community fund, technical operation, maintenance, and productive use of the micro hydro system.
Local network of technical experts
Since Yamog does not fabricate its own turbines and load controllers, it ensures that the hardware developers commit to delivering high quality systems and local training to community-level technicians. Having implement nearly 30 projects, Yamog has developed a village-to-village network of technical experts for civil works installation and trouble shooting of electro-mechanical components. For example, the village masons from completed projects mentor the masons of new projects, carrying forward technical lessons of earlier projects. This in-turn has led to a local knowledge sharing network that can sustain itself without the involvement of Yamog. In addition, it has helped to diversify the skillsets in indigenous communities, where traditional livelihoods are at risk due to extractive activities of mainstream development.
With a small team, instead of quantity of projects Yamog's work has focused on process and quality to ensure long-term sustainability. Every year the team typically commits to 1-2 projects and implements them with utmost care, focusing on the elements explained above.
While larger organizations, with greater number of staff and funding, can easily implement many projects in parallel, they can be prone to frequent staff turnover and prioritizing targets over processes. In some cases this has led to micro hydropower units that are not long-sustained and soon need rehabilitation. In this context, HPNET takes inspiration from Yamog's steady and process-focused momentum to establish community micro hydropower.
To give you a glimpse of the Yamog's work in action, below is a brief case study of Lubo village's micro hydropower project.
Case Study: Sustainability of Lubo Micro Hydro Project -- Two Years Later
The residents of Sitio Lubo continue to enjoy the benefits of having a 35-kilowatt micro-hydropower system. Since the renewable energy project was handed-over by Yamog to the Lubo Renewable Energy Community Association (LURECDA) in June 2013, the lives of the people in this isolated and marginalized community have steadily changed for the better.
Situated deep in the highlands of Barangay Ned, Lake Sebu in the province of South Cotabato, Sitio Lubo is an off-grid community inhabited by mostly Christian peasant settlers. It is about 65 kilometers from Koronadal City, South Cotabato. It is populated by 150 households who, for many decades, have been resigned to their dismal fate of being deprived of opportunities that would improve their socio-economic situation. No one among them could have imagined that their vast water resource would someday lift them up from their collective sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
At present, 127 households and selected strategic locations of the community are now brightly illuminated at night by energy-saving bulbs. In effect, the 35-kilowatt water-driven renewable energy system has freed the residents of Lubo from decades of heavy dependence on kerosene as the main form of household lighting at night, and as a major source of energy for other community and household activities.
Moreover, about 20 households have engaged in small income generating activities after having procured refrigerators to store locally-made food products (which are kept fresh because of the presence of 24-hour electricity) for sale. Taking advantage of the presence of electricity, both men and women can also engage in income generating activities even at night. Schoolchildren are inspired to work on their nightly home works because of the presence of good lighting within their households. Gone were the days when they had to contend with the unsteady illumination from kerosene lamps which spewed a lot of carbon dioxide that endangered their health.
Two public schools with a total of 560 students are also now enjoying the comfort of having unhampered electricity during classes. For the first time, these students are now able to use computers for learning, while teachers can now also use computers to prepare lesson plans, learning aids, aptitude tests, and reports. Places for important social gatherings that utilize electricity for lighting and sound systems, like the Sitio Hall and local churches, are abuzz with activities.
Early in the course of project implementation three years ago, Yamog invested a lot of effort in addressing the software component – that is social infrastructure building – a very crucial element for project sustainability. Capacity building activities in the field of technical operation and maintenance, financial management, organizational building and strengthening, and watershed management, have been conducted in order for the project beneficiaries to acquire the required knowledge, attitudes and skills that would improve their chances of effectively managing their micro-hydro system over the long term. Now it appears that all those efforts have generated very encouraging results as evidenced by the following:
Brimming with enthusiasm, the residents of Sitio Lubo are looking forward to the coming years with a list of more things to do. After two years of operating and maintaining their micro-hydropower system, plans of utilizing the almost unlimited supply of energy at daytime are afoot. Next in the drawing board are the construction of a corn mill, hammer mill (to produce feed stocks using organic raw materials for hog-raising), coffee huller, and other productive end uses of their MHP electricity. All these are aimed at raising family incomes. Fundraising for these spin-off projects would be a big challenge, but they are optimistic that they would achieve these additional facilities that they are aspiring for in the next two years.
In the realm of integrated approaches to community-based micro hydro, we take inspiration from SIBAT, a country-wide Filipino network and people's organization advancing community-based renewable energy applications, sustainable agriculture techniques, and water access solutions.
SIBAT's Filipino name, Sibol Ng Agham At Teknolohiya, translates as a wellspring of science and technology. In 1984, several non-government organizations, including science and technology leaders of the country, synergized to help alleviate the struggles of rural communities with the use of appropriate technology The endeavor established SIBAT as a network to coordinate capacity building for organizations that develop technology for rural areas. Over the next decade SIBAT led the country's movement for sustainable agriculture, in empowering communities to return to organic farming with improved techniques. In 1994, SIBAT began capacity building work on rural energy and water solutions.
With a relatively small staff (~25 persons), SIBAT's achievements have been impressive:
With 30 years of commitment to rural communities, SIBAT's work faces the following challenges and opportunities:
In the late 90’s and onward, SIBAT joined efforts for policy development on sustainable agriculture. It participated in the crafting of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Organic Agriculture Law which took effect in 2012. While the law is in place, it lacks mechanisms to strengthen the small-scale, organic farmer. SIBAT faces a similar uphill in reforming the country's renewable energy law, so that small and community-based power producers are part of the national strategy. To scale community-based energy projects, SIBAT seeks to change the current Renewable Energy policy. Towards this goal, it has taken the lead in facilitating partnerships and exchange events among practice, policy, advocacy, and academic stakeholders.
Rehabilitating from typhoon-damage
With increasing climate change, devastating typhoons frequent the Philippines, particularly SIBAT's focus regions. While funding for new projects comes easily, support for rehabilitating already commissioned projects is a challenge. SIBAT is working to better document the need for and approach to rehabilitating CBRES projects, by reaching out to appropriate donors and finding ways to work within each community's financial strengths.
Want to be Involved?
Over the years, SIBAT has nurtured many visiting volunteers to firsthand learn from rural communities and make meaningful contributions. SIBAT continues to accept volunteers. Details can be found here.
By HPNET members Victoria Lopez, Shen Maglinte, and Dipti Vaghela