How To Reduce Your Electric Bill Using Sunshine
A Review Based On Actual Use
Solar panels are devices that harness sunlight to generate electricity which we can use to power our electric driven appliances.
The use of sunlight to generate electricity is really not new. It was first introduced in 1839, however, it was not until 1941 that the first solar cell was actually proven to be useful. However, even through advances in science through decades, the use of solar panels was not practical because they were expensive. The cost of owning them is simply much higher than the benefits that it can possibly provide.
In 1975, the cost of solar panels were at USD 101.05 per watt (5,355 PHP @ 53 exchange rate). At this cost, the average Filipino household (using 230 kwh / month) needs PHP 5.35 Million to purchase them and that does not include even installation and commissioning.
The Good News: Solar Panel Costs Have Dropped
The good news — today, these solar panels have now dropped to a price point where their use is now practical. The global price as of February 2018 per watt is now at 62 US cents per watt. That is PHP 33.00 in today’s exchange rate.
Are they practical for use now? The short answer — definitely!
The following are my notes on how I went through the whole process of getting a solar home system installed — the analysis, mistakes, lessons learned, coordination with various teams, the cost and the benefits. I’m documenting and sharing these in the hope that it may benefit the Filipino family save money on electric bills. The second purpose is to encourage my fellow Filipinos to care for the environment. The Philippines is generating most of its electricity using coal and gas which are harmful to the environment. Solar power is a clean and renewable energy. Using solar energy to power our homes is our chance to help mother nature – our only home.
The Decision To Go Solar Energy
Solar panels have been available for decades already but they were not yet practical then – they were so expensive that an investment in solar will take maybe 10 – 20 years before you recover the cost of investment. They were mostly used by those who have really no access to a power grid. For those who have access to the grid (Meralco for example), it is still cheaper to use power from the grid compared to solar home systems.
However, because of environmental advocacy, anything that has something to do with environmental protection including solar technology appearing in the news will always get my attention, even if it is just to get to know what are the advances in solar technology.
R.A. 9513: Act Promoting the Development, Utilization, and Commercialization of Renewable Energy Resources and for Other Purposes
In 2008, Republic Act 9513 was approved into law in the Philippines. RA 9513 is an “Act Promoting the Development, Utilization, and Commercialization of Renewable Energy Resources and for Other Purposes”. One of its provisions is to mandate all distribution utilities like Meralco to enter into a net metering agreement with subscribers that have renewable energy installed. (I’ll explain Net Metering in the coming pages).
The Cost of Solar Panels Are Going Down
In February 2016, I came across this Ted Talk by Al Gore – “The Case For Optimism On Climate Change”. In his presentation, he presented a graph briefly that showed a huge drop in the cost of solar panels worldwide. This got me started doing research locally whether this price drop has cascaded to the Philippines. It turns out that these solar panels are now selling in the Philippines at about ₱ 80 ~120 per watt with installation already as of December 2017. To my pleasant surprise too, these solar panels are manufactured right in the Philippines. They are also competitively priced and with much better quality than the Chinese made panels.
After analyzing the pros and cons of having a solar home system for years, I am now convinced that we have arrived at a tipping point. It is now the right time to install a solar home system.
In January 29, 2018 the solar home system is finally installed in our roof.
Today, I’m pleased to say that the solar panels are contributing 40 ~ 60% of our household electricity needs. This will save us money in the long term and we have also reduced our carbon footprint by about half already.
The ultimate goal is to be completely disconnected from Meralco in the future — and there are promising technologies in this area, so we will keep watching this space.
How can a solar home system save us money?
Let’s illustrate this using a real situation.
Below is our Meralco bill comparing June 2017 and June 2018:
In June 2017, we were using 100% grid sourced power from Meralco.
In June 2018, we already have a solar home system.
This bill above shows a 41% reduction in the amount of power (kWh) purchased from Meralco.
So what caused the reduction? There is now a solar home system installed on our roof that helped carry the load on our electricity needs. The solar setup has 1.3kW rating at peak capacity. Our electricity needs averages at 300 kWh per month.
How Much Power Is Being Contributed By The Solar Home System?
This solar home system contributed approximately 122 kWh (in comparison to our June 2017 bill).
Furthermore, if we consider that our household had increased demand in June 2018, this savings is now even higher. The 300 kWh used in June 2017 as comparison represents a period where we needed less electricity by comparison. Last year in June 2017, I was still working in the corporate world so I am out of the house most of the time. This year, I am now working from home and using electricity 100% of the time which added to our electricity usage.
How Much Savings Are We Realizing?
After comparing our bills last year and this year, our power requirements have increased by 11% (on an 8-month average). Our power requirements in June 2017 was already 300 kWh. If we are to take into consideration that our usage increased by 11% in June 2018, our power requirements would now be about 333 kWh.
With that scenario, with my actual usage showing 178 kWh of usage I pulled from Meralco this June 2018, that would be a savings of 155 kWh. That will be equal to ₱ 1,559 of savings in today’s electricity rate for the month.
Additional Savings Coming From the Export of Excess Power From the Solar Home System
An additional source of savings is through the “sale” of excess power generated from our solar home system. The solar home system is capable of producing more power than needed at certain hours of the day, this is a situation where we have surplus power.
So what happens to this surplus power? We “sell” it to Meralco and they “pay” us for the power we produce. This is the benefit of Net Metering (although some people prefer to call it Net Billing). Meralco is not going to send us cheque every month for this. Instead, Meralco deducts the peso amount of our export from our electric bill reducing our bill further.
Going back to our June 2018 bill, in the last 30 days from June 7 – July 6, 2018, the solar panels have accumulated a total of 10 kWh of export. If we convert this into this month’s generation charge of ₱4.98/kwh, that amounts to an additional ₱49.80 of savings, deducted from the Meralco bill. This is rather low because for the period more than half of June 2018 is either rainy or cloudy. I’m hoping that the average for the rest of the year will be higher. (I will monitor this regularly and update interested readers in future posts).
If we now add that export to the previous savings of ₱ 1,559, the total savings for the month of June 2018 is ₱ 1,608.80. We would have paid ₱ 3,349.98 for the 333 kWh used if we do not have a solar home system. That is 52% savings!
How Much Do Solar Home Systems Cost?
Please see this article “HOW MUCH DO SOLAR HOME SYSTEMS COST?” for the costing estimates that may be applicable to your requirement.
If you want to know more about how to use solar for your home, feel free to message me using the contact details below and I will take time to respond.
I would also like to invite you to join the FB Group “Sinag” for updates on how you can also benefit from solar.
We all live on one earth, our home. Let’s join hands in protecting it.