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Blog 6: Rest, Study, and Action

posted Aug 5, 2011, 7:23 PM by William Hong   [ updated Apr 8, 2012, 2:37 PM by Thomas Geissmann ]
(2011 - August 6)

Blogger: William
Journey: DOE-VFO Headquarters and Visit to Pangan-an
It has been weeks since my last blog. Its good to be writing this again. It all started with a week of getting hit by a crazy case of tonsillitis then it was followed by a week of planning and reports and finally ended up being able to deliver the deliverables to the island. Rest, Study, and Action pretty much encapsulates my updates. Ill skip right up to the meaty parts though. 

Getting there

After some weeks of keeping up with the work (reports and discussions) at DOE office, I finally got to visit the island once again to bring the rest of the lamps to officially swing the project to full operations mode. Remember that a few weeks ago we brought 5 lamps to the island to give our staff a chance to practice charging and using the lamps for themselves. After some weeks of getting used to the cycles, it already seemed right to start RENTING out the lamps. Bringing the last batch to the island was a boat ride to remember. Usually around this time of the year (July to August), the Habagat, or southwest monsoons, comes blowing in to the little islands of the southern part of the Philippines. As you can imagine, the seas aren`t as pleasant, especially when all you are riding is a medium-sized outrigger boat across the channel from Cebu to Pangan-an. Anyhow, we made it across and back safely (as I am still alive writing to tell about it). This time I went alone actually since sir Jun had some other matters to attend to.

Charging the Lamps

As all the 20 lamps were now together, we finally, for the first time, got to charge the lamps all together in the island. It was quite evident that the electricity consumption went up. I am now estimating that the entire system would take up about 0.5 kWhs per day of charging. That`s roughly about 15kWhs per month. In no time, we will become one of the few users in the island who consume about 12 to 15kWhs per month (thats actually big considering that the users average about 6 to 9 kWhs only and about 43% of users are using less than 3kWhs per mont). Anyhow, we did foresee this aspect anyway and we will allot a budget to pay for the electricity consumed. 

Pricing the Lamps

During this initial stage of renting, the pricing would be very crucial to set correctly for the reasons that it is usually difficult to change prices after a project starts delivering the service. As designed, the lamps will be rented out for PhP 5 per day. Comparing to alternative lighting sources for the island, this price is ideal since we will compete directly with those using kerosene lamps who spend about PhP5-10 per day of use. There wasn`t any adjustment to the price we set for the people. What I felt needed adjustment though was the allotment of the proceeds. In my calculation, if for example the 20 lamps would be rented out 20 days of the month, then the total proceeds would be 20x20x5 = PHP2,000. The current plan is to pay half (PHP1,000) of this to the staff that worked for the service and the rest would go to payments for electricity usage and Funds for New Lamps. In that way, it is probable that the system can purchase a new lamp locally per month (local lamps cost about PhP700 - 900). In the first 3 days of operations, about 10 to 11 lamps were rented out per day. The return rate of the lamps is a 100% also (good since we hope the lamps are returned each day to be charged). 

Lamps` Durability and Effectiveness

After the 20 days of trial operation of the first 5 lamps, we actually have our first lamp casualty. LAMP No. 4 was a good lamp. Sadly, during its duty in the trial days, one of the users did not notice his son plugging the lamp into a 220V system using a somehow compatible radio wire to our lamp. Ouch. Lamp 4 still lights up but would no longer charge. It is currently being studied for repairs. All other lamps though, have served their purposes well. The lamps are much brighter than kerosene lamps and thus the lamps have a welcoming market. We will observe more how our lamps survive the environment and usage in the island scenario. 

Research and Reports

Research has been progressing somehow. It is always tough to balance your works and research and life. Anyhow, this week was another step towards solidifying the concept of Capacity to Sustain (CTS) and Willingness to Sustain (WTS). So far, the primary variables identified (through expert discussions) for these would be Income and Education. I am currently creating a grading system for these two variables to reflect the users` CTS and WTS. Needs more development though. As for the Pangan-an report, we are getting closer to our conclusions. We are currently discussing the decision options for the project. I feel the 5-dimension framework (technical, economic, social, institutions, environmental) is still holding up. The next few weeks would be a battle. We are approaching the final corner of my internship. I am hoping all things would go well.

During these monsoon times, the winds blog intently to topple what is. These are also the times when we must be unwavering in effort and persistence to accomplish our works. Amidst  the dark of the night and strong winds, our solar lamps can shine; replacing the once hazardous lamps of oil.

Until then,


Week`s Pics

LAMPS FOR RENT. Officially launches all 20 lamps. August 3, 2011.