Philippines: Co-ops electrify a nation of islands

Nearly 50 years ago, NRECA International helped establish a small electrification program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that sparked the promise of a better future for millions of people. This early involvement in the Philippines led to the creation of the nation’s National Electrification Administration (NEA) and subsequently, the country’s electric co-op movement. A bond between NRECA, America’s electric co-ops and their counterparts across the ocean was born.  

Men repairing electrical transformers in the Philippines.In 2015, the Philippines reached a milestone when its 119 electric co-ops spread throughout the archipelago exceeded 11 million in total service connections, bringing electricity to 50 million people in 36,000 rural villages and rural towns.

In 2001, to help these electric co-ops improve their performance, the Rural Electrification Finance Corporation (REFC) was formed to provide the rural electrification industry with a private, cooperative-owned financing mechanism to introduce improved technology and finance key investments. Today, REFC has 84 electric cooperative stockholder members, its capital stands at $15 million, its loan portfolio is almost $10 million, and the total lending to its cooperative shareholders for projects to improve dependable service and operational efficiency has reached more than $32 million.

In 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, the largest ever to hit the planet, made landfall in the Philippines. Thirty-three electric co-ops suffered heavy damages, and 11 were completely destroyed. But those co-ops were able to bounce back, thanks in large part to REFC. Electric co-ops around the country also mobilized within hours after the storm’s passing to assist in rebuilding the affected areas. NRECA and its member co-ops provided financial assistance in the relief effort, showing solidarity between co-ops around the globe.

Watch a video demonstrating the strength of this 50-year friendship between co-ops in the aftermath of Haiyan.

Today, NRECA International and its member co-ops are regarded as long-term partners with the NEA and the electric co-ops in the Philippines, providing support with governance training and sharing best practices in management and distribution system operations.

Learn more about NRECA International and its sustainable international cooperative development. NRECA International is a member of the U.S. Overseas Development Council. Follow OCDC on LinkedIn and NRECA on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Posted 6/21/16