Meet Engr. Isabelo Rabuya, Newton Fund Institutional Links Grant awardee.

Research topic: Capacity in research and development embedded in case studies related to energy in the built environment and for rural electrification

Host institution / UK university: University of Southampton

Home institution: University of San Carlos

Describe your research collaboration in layman’s terms.

The 2017 Paris climate agreement set a goal in average global temperature rise, based on pre-industrial levels, to be well below 2oC. This collaboration develops research capacity in the University of San Carlos on two pathways to move towards the goal with case studies on renewable energy systems for small off-grid islands, and the reduction of energy consumption in buildings through design of retrofits based on whole building energy modelling.

What activities have you undertaken that target the economic development, welfare and poverty issues in the Philippines?

The team has done electricity user surveys in three small, off-grid islands. Gilutongan is an island in Cebu where majority of the 1,640 residents pay for electricity, cooking fuel and other necessities on a daily subsistence basis. Electricity is supplied from a diesel generator for only four hours at night with an effective rate of approximately PhP50 per kWh – five times more expensive than the typical grid rate. Renewable energy can transform people’s lives in this community if electricity is made available 24 hours a day, as it would improve the delivery of social services in health and education. People will also have the opportunity to generate additional income through the productive use of electricity in microenterprises. The Newton award has greatly helped the Philippine researchers with the mentorship by UK researchers on the design of renewable energy systems for off-grid communities based on the latter’s experience in sub-Saharan Africa.

How did your collaboration with the UK contribute to your institution in general or your career as a researcher?

USC’s collaboration with Southampton University resulted to a sharpened focus on research areas where potential national impact is high. The first is on improved energy access for low-income Filipinos in isolated and oft-neglected island communities; the second is on whole building energy modelling towards the implementation of measures for increased energy efficiency. Through the Institutional Links grant, USC has formed a strong 30-person research team composed of faculty researchers and graduate students. Besides the sharpened focus, researchers in the team also acquired knowledge and skills necessary to produce higher level work that will result to publications. The grant has jumpstarted USC’s Center for Research in Energy Systems and Technologies (CREST), which is now writing grant proposals for submission to various bodies, to move forward the work started in the Newton Fund grant. We intend to continue the collaboration with the University of Southampton by writing joint grant proposals for research funding.

What about the UK influenced your decision to collaborate with your partner institution?

The UK is a world pioneer in science and industry, which are main ingredients for the economic progress of countries. UK’s reaching out to the developing world through the Newton Fund has provided current and future researchers in the Philippines the opportunity to work with, and learn from, the best researchers in the field. We have experienced this through our research attachment in the UK and the work in the Philippines. Our project works on a global problem that will eventually contribute towards climate change mitigation. Renewable energy, and more efficient use of non-renewable energy, will lead to the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions, benefiting all of humanity. Fortunately, our partner institution works with us not just on a professional level, but as friends. We therefore see this endeavour as one where a more learned brother guides a brother needing assistance to solve a common problem together. Working with the UK is great.