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.