Lubo Micro Hydropower Project
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.
As a result, the Lubo micro-hydropower system is estimated to prevent the release of some 136 tons of carbon dioxide annually into the atmosphere as the community veers away from fossil fuel (i.e. kerosene and diesel generators). The modest contribution of this community to address global warming is manifested in its commitment to protect its watershed. Around 10 percent of monthly operation and maintenance funds collected from LURECDA member-households are allocated for reforestation activities. A healthy watershed also ensures steady supply of water that drives their micro-hydropower system.
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:
99% collection rate of monthly operation and maintenance contributions from member-households. LURECDA now has sufficient funds to meet operation and maintenance requirements.
Financial recording is excellent, with internally audited monthly and annual financial reports produced and readily made available to LURECDA members.
The trained power house operators, and weir/intake caretakers are still very active and committed to ensure efficient operation of vital electro-mechanical equipment that make possible the distribution of electricity to the households in the community.
LURECDA leaders (from the Board of Directors to the Operations and Maintenance Personnel) are in very high morale and functioning according to their assigned roles and responsibilities.
Regular recording on the logbook to monitor the daily performance and problems encountered at the power house is being done by the trained operators.
Regular cleaning of the forebay tank and the weir/intake is done every Saturday (at least for two hours).
Especially after a heavy rain, the operators are always quick to clean the weir/intake & forebay tank and rid them of any sedimentation and debris, and inspect the whole transmission and distribution lines as part of standard operation & maintenance procedure.
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 be able to establish these additional facilities within the next two years.
The Lubo Power House, and tree seedlings propagated by LURECDA. The community clearly understands the connection between a healthy watershed, water supply and sustainable energy.