In December 2015, 195 governments signed the Paris Agreement, a historic agreement to combat climate change. As part of its own pledge to the Agreement, the Philippine government committed to reduce the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030. While this target, known as the National Determined Contribution (NDC), was signed at the government level, it will rely on implementation and partnerships of all stakeholders on the ground to help achieve it.
In the Philippines, a family of colleges in partnership with a private renewable energy provider took the lead in embracing this responsibility. The six schools under the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae (CICM) mission in the Philippines are adding new technologies and approaches to their existing practices for environmental and ‘mother earth friendly’ actions.
Saint Louis University (SLU), the largest university north of Manila, in Baguio, is one of these seven schools. It’s vision to "build a society responsive to changes of the environment and to develop responsible individuals" is discernibly reflected in an impressive amount of eco-friendly initiatives that the University’s administration and students have already undertaken, including waste management, water conservation and anti-pollution programs. According to SLU, sustainability implies that “the major activities on campus are ecologically sound, socially just, economically viable and humane and will continue to be so for future generations.” SLU has been encouraging all of its seven branches of schools to espouse such an approach on their own campuses. Seven critical dimensions were identified by SLU to assess the school’s sustainability. These are 1) curriculum, 2) research and scholarship, 3) operations, 4) faculty and staff development, 5) outreach and service, 6) student opportunities, and 7) mission. Recognized for its pioneering efforts, SLU was recipient of the 2013 Regional Search for Sustainable and Ecofriendly Schools.
Taking its commitment to sustainability one step further, CICM schools partnered with WEnergy Global since 2016 to work on the use of clean energy and improve energy-efficiency. WEnergy Global is a renewable energy solutions company, tackling climate change through global partnerships and engagement with stakeholders. In the Philippines, WEnergy Global participates in three Joint Venture companies to achieve its mission: WEnergy Power Pilipinas Inc., Sabang Renewable Energy Corporation and the Culion-Linapacan Renewable Energy Corporation. The company also has many clients around South East Asia and Europe, but its partnership with CICM exemplifies the multi-faceted approach that the company believes is critical in the fight against climate change.
One component of the partnership entails identifying energy consumption patterns and substituting the essential energy consumption with clean energy. Saint Louis College (SLC), one of SLU’s branches in San Fernando, La Union, solarized its campus with a 200.34 kWp rooftop solar photo-voltaic (PV) power plant in August 2016 (see video link of the inauguration: https://youtu.be/AbiWCMp8BqU).
Since commissioning of the solar power system, SLC has saved over 350 metric-tons of CO2-equivalent emissions, which can be compared with the emissions from 85 average passenger cars driven for one full year! The total power generated with the power of the sun over that same period would be able to power approximately 120 homes for one whole year (assuming their average consumption on 200 kWh/month). Substituting approximately 33% of its energy consumption with solar energy has resulted in cost savings of over PHP 3 million (USD 60, 000) on energy bills. These cost savings are especially relevant as Philippines has been ranked second highest in Asia for electricity prices. Installing solar power has also allowed the college to contribute approximately 25,000 kWh per year to the local power grid.
In February 2018, two other CICM schools have started to operate their own solar PV power plants. The University of St. Louis (USL) in Tuguegarao owns a 192.2 kWp system, while St. Mary University (SMU) in Bayombong owns a system size of 219.7 kWp. These two campuses expect to reduce emissions by over 240 metric-tons of CO2-equivalents per year, while cutting down their power consumption expenses by approximately 28% and 33% for USL and SMU respectively.
The St. Louis University in Baguio is also working with WEnergy Global on a ‘Zero Net Energy’ Building on their campus. This is the vision of its President Father Dr. Gilbert Sales, who wants to set a clear example for students (future leaders), staff, parents, partners and suppliers that the CICM family is fully committed to actions for a better planet.
Solarization of buildings and the efficient use of energy in these buildings is only one component of the partnership between WEnergy Global and the schools. WEnergy prides itself in being more than a solar panel provider and installer. As part of a more holistic partnership approach, WEnergy Global and the schools have developed a relationship in which the schools can ask for advice on a range of topics, including on how to make their campus operations more sustainable. In addition, both entities are devising a method to empower students by providing them access to real-time data of solar energy production energy savings.
The holistic partnership approach was further exemplified in a workshop held at SLU's campus in Baguio last year (see video link: https://youtu.be/Iv2CRlYAmUU ). Jointly organized by SLU and WEnergy Global, the day-long creative forum involved dialogue and exchange on sustainability initiatives at the global, national, and campus level. Over 250 students and 40 decision-makers from CICM schools participated. WEnergy Global facilitated groups of participants by theme, including air, energy, water/waste water, solid waste, food consumption and transport, to creatively design their own visions of a sustainable campus. Some of the ideas included a campus-wide circular “zero waste” management system as well as innovative financing for the solutions.
The unusualness of having a private sector company conduct a pro-bono workshop stood out to many participants. In fact, during the workshop, several participants asked whether WEnergy Global was a non-profit organization, surprised that the school would partner with a private company. The president of SLU, Father Dr. Gilbert Sales, highlighted how he views partnerships as a key ingredient to preparing his university’s students for addressing real-world problems that require a multi-stakeholder approach. The University has already embarked on several partnerships such as the East-West Center, the American Studies Resource Center, and the Philippine Association on Environmental Protection and Management.
And according to St. Mary University, the decision to partner with WEnergy to install a solar PV system “speaks to the forward-looking spirit of our institution, while demonstrating the applied technology that enables our students to derive more knowledge and pride for a living laboratory of renewable energy and sustainable development while helping them become more responsible stewards of nature and creation.”
On the part of USL Tuguegarao, University President Dr. Delilah Valencia affirmed that the partnership with WEnergy for solar power “is a commitment to the CICM advocacy on environmental protection and as part of USL’s Environment Sustainability Program (ESP). USL Tuguegarao has also embarked on initiatives on energy efficiency and demand side management, recycling and waste segregation, and adding to green spaces on the campus.“
The new partnership between the CICM schools and WEnergy Global is that of a family, particularly fitting in a country where the value placed on family is particularly high. It is often only through the strength of family relations that people are able to mobilize difficult to come-by resources or overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. And it is precisely this mentality, which will be required of all actors to give life to the Paris commitments and to save the one planet that we have got. In the fight against climate change, we cannot do it alone.