How a 28-year-old helped reduce cost of electricity in PH

Published December 8, 2021, 12:02 AM

by Anna Mae Lamentillo

NIGHT OWL

Anna Mae Lamentillo

Solar Philippines has gone a long way since it was established in 2013. It started with a vision of a budding entrepreneur to lower the electricity costs in the country by harnessing the sun’s energy.

From installing solar panels in some of the country’s biggest malls, to creating solar farms in Calatagan, Batangas and Concepcion, Tarlac, and developing solar energy zones, Solar Philippines has now ventured into the public market.

The Philippine Stock Exchange, Inc. (PSE) approved Solar Philippines Nueva Ecija Corporation’s (SPNEC) conduct of an initial public offering (IPO). SPNEC, a subsidiary of Solar Philippines, offered 2.7 billion shares at the price of ₱1 per share from Dec. 1-7, with a target listing date on Dec. 17, 2021.

SPNEC is the developer of a 500 MW solar project that is planned to be the largest solar project in Southeast Asia. Proceeds from the IPO will be used to complete the first 50 MW of the project, and to acquire land to expand the project beyond 500 MW.

At the helm of these pioneering concepts and projects of Solar Philippines is its founder and chief executive officer, Leandro Legarda Leviste, who is only 28 years old.

When I asked Leandro what made him put up Solar Philippines and if it was his childhood dream to be an entrepreneur, he said, “I wanted to study political science and go to law school. But when I went to college in the US, I saw that it was entrepreneurs who were making the biggest difference.”

Leandro L. Leviste

In 2013, he started investing his savings in Elon Musk’s companies, Tesla and SolarCity, but he thought that the zero upfront solar rooftop business model would make even more sense in the Philippines, where the cost of power was about twice as high as in the US. He said that the more he looked into the opportunity, the more convinced he became that solar could solve our country’s high cost of power.

That same year, armed with a vision and confidence in the future of solar energy, Leandro put up Solar Philippines.

CALATAGAN SOLAR FARM – Aerial shot of Solar Philippines’ solar farm in Calatagan, Batangas. In 2018, Solar Philippines sold 38 percent of Solar Philippines Calatagan Corporation to KEPCO at an over ₱5B equity valuation.

He believes that solar will soon become the largest source of energy in the country. Solar Philippines has been focused on getting into position for when that day comes. Leandro explains, it’s the reason why they signed a contract to supply Meralco solar at a starting rate of ₱2.9999/kWh in 2017, which was then the lowest price of any power plant in the Philippines, to show that solar was already cheaper than coal.
Year by year, he becomes even more motivated and inspired seeing his plans materialize, not only for Solar Philippines, but for solar energy development in the country as a whole. He is proud that, one by one, their former competitors are becoming their partners to make solar the largest source of energy in the Philippines.

Now with Solar Philippines’ first public offering, he is more confident of a brighter future for the company and the solar industry.

KEPCO SIGNING – Leandro L. Leviste with then KEPCO CEO Kim Jong-Kap (left), head of one of the world’s largest power companies during his trip to Manila when he visited the Calatagan solar plant.

“We’ve long thought that the public markets would be the best way to finance our developments, but the public’s outlook on solar had still been too far apart from ours. While our view that solar will comprise the majority of new power supply in the Philippines is not yet consensus, the gap has closed during the COVID pandemic, when many old assumptions have changed, planned coal plants have been canceled, and interest in renewable energy has increased. We are hopeful that this IPO will help further close that gap, by showing the viability of large-scale solar in the Philippines,” said Leandro.

Once he achieves his dream to make solar the largest source of energy in the Philippines, Leandro says his next goal is to help accelerate the energy transition outside the country.

At a young age, Leandro has already reached great heights. His pioneering innovations are no easy feat and he has many more plans for his company and the whole solar industry. Yet, he shares, that one of the most important memories of his career remains to be that time when they built Solar Philippines’ first solar farm in Calatagan, Batangas, because that’s when he saw a vision came into fruition — a powerpoint became a power plant.

 
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