MANILA, Philippines - Customers of Bank of the Philippine Islands Ayala Ave. extension branch will notice something different with the structure. What used to be a bare, nondescript roof above the bank’s familiar red signage and white columns is now occupied by a row of metallic panels that gleam under the sun.

It’s not the intense summer heat that had prompted BPI to put up these solar panels in one of its branches. As the first of its kind to be installed by a local bank, BPI hopes that the move will not only put the spotlight on the global crusade for a greener planet.

More importantly, it creates awareness on the commercial viability of technologies that utilize more sustainable energy.

BPI senior vice president Florendo Maranan said the solar energy systems installed at the extension branch is a relatively small-sized unit.

“Environmentally, the reduction in fossil fuel dependence might seem like an insignificant figure, but we believe it still amounts to something when we talk about working towards a cleaner planet,” Maranan said.

Renewable sources of energy, such as the sun, have long been proven to be cleaner and a more sustainable alternative to fossil fuel. It is estimated that the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth could provide as much as 10,000 times more energy than the combined output of all the commercial power plants in the planet. This is roughly equivalent to about 6,000 times more than what the entire world needs.
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In the Philippines, electricity costs remain one of the most expensive in the region, and some provinces are still plagued by rotating blackouts. Thus, something as dependable as sunlight can spell a big difference. For this pilot BPI branch, the amount of savings that the panels are envisioned to bring is nothing to scoff at.

The 161-year-old institution, in partnership with energy service company Solarus Partners Inc., installed two 2.5-kilowatt (kw) commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the pilot branch. Combined, these panels are expected to produce some 6,200 kilowatthour (kwh) of power a year, which translates to an estimated 25-percent savings in the branch’s electricity bill.

“We’re exploring solar energy systems for branches that are off-grid or those that do not have regular or stable source of power,” said Maranan, who also heads BPI’s Sustainability Office.

While the investment in installing the solar panels might seem a little steep at around P100,000 to P150,000 per kw, the period of recouping the initial cost is a lot shorter than what many think. Maranan said the bank expects regular electricity costs to increase by about 10 to 15 percent a year so recouping the investment may take as little as five years.

“But beyond the cost, I think it’s important to look at this endeavor as a commitment,” he stressed.

True enough, the solar power system is just one of the measures in BPI’s sustainability strategy. Over the years, the bank has embarked on other green initiatives, both at its head office and in its branches.

This ranged from paperless drives to energy conservation efforts, such as installing energy-saving LED lighting systems and a “No Overtime Fridays” policy every second and fourth Fridays of the month.

The Ayala Ave. extension branch, in fact, is already the second “green” branch of BPI. In 2012, the bank opened a 10-square meter branch inside the Asian Development Bank (BPI) which not only became its smallest but also a showcase of its integrated approach towards environmental sustainability and commercial viability.

“(With the solar panels,) We want to showcase the best green practices in a single branch so that we can demonstrate the benefits that can be derived from the strategy,” said Maranan. “In fact, this same branch will also be the pilot for our other green initiatives, such as LED signage, rainwater harvesting, and inverter air-conditioning units.”

The BPI Ayala Ave. extension branch was chosen primarily because of its location. As it is not surrounded by tall buildings, sunlight can freely be caught by the solar panels. It is also near the BPI head office so its performance will be easy to monitor. If successful, this endeavor might be replicated in other branches throughout the country.

As the Philippines has been identified as one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, there is a pressing need for local businesses to adapt a more sustainable way of doing business.

BPI’s pioneering effort in harnessing solar energy underscores the many ways through which companies can do their part in working toward a greener planet.


(2013, May 14). BPI pilots use of solar power.  Philippine Star. http://www.philstar.com/banking/2013/05/14/941714/bpi-pilots-use-solar-power

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