Though the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily disrupted it, mall culture has been ingrained in the Filipino psyche for decades. Which makes it a huge deal for the renewable energy revolution in the Philippines that SM Supermalls, one of the biggest mall operators in Southeast Asia, has fully embraced solar power, with SM City Bacoor today becoming its latest solar mall, in partnership with Green Heat Corp.
While acknowledging that the mall operator has faced controversy in the past for cutting trees for mall projects, sparking protests from environmentalists and residents, SM Supermalls AVP for Operations for South 1 Region Lorenzo Leon A. Calingasan IV said the company is fully committed to sustainability and is working with communities to ensure this.
Why mall culture matters
“There were concerns in the past, true. But we have been able to confer and partner with national agencies. As a matter of fact, with big groups who support and who guide us in order for us to really be able to come up with programs which will be able to answer all the concerns which impact the communities where we operate. But what is important is that we have been able to sit down, partner, and be guided with our initiatives in order for us to really work with the community and align our efforts with government initiatives to the care of the environment. So for the past years of operations, we’ve been able to do that, and we’ve been able to see and reap the results of our embrace of sustainable practices in our mall operations,” Calingasan said in response to a question from Digital Life Asia.
The late founder of the SM Group, Henry Sy Sr., is the billionaire trailblazer of Philippine mall culture.
“Fujian-born Sy, whose wealth was estimated by Forbes Magazine at $18.3 billion (nearly P1 trillion) at the time of his death, started with a shoe store in downtown Manila in the 1960s.
“Shoe Mart would later evolve into SM, a chain of 72 malls in the Philippines and 7 others in China. The giant structures are not only shopping destinations, they are also de facto city centers where Filipinos can dine, transact with government and even go to church.”
Benefits of solar power
It is fitting that the company that created mall culture in the Philippines is now transforming it and making it more sustainable. SM City Bacoor is the latest solar mall of SM Supermalls, which launched its first solar rooftop project in 2014 at SM City North Edsa — the first mall in the Philippines to become solar-powered. Two years, this was followed two years later by SM Mall of Asia, whose solar power facility doubled the capacity of SM City North Edsa’s rooftop installation.
As Calingasan pointed, not only has SM Supermalls been rolling out solar power across its different malls in the Philippines, but also in the ones it operates in China.
SM City Bacoor has maximized the use of its 6,230 square meters of rooftop space with 3,114 solar panels. The 1.3-megawatt (MW) roof-mounted solar power plant, the largest of its kind in Bacoor City, will generate a monthly average of 128,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electrical energy, which is enough to power 800 homes consuming an average of 160 kWh a month.
This translates to savings of Php10.3 million in the mall’s annual electricity costs, while reducing its dependence on grid power.
“Our group guarantees providing top quality systems that will perform for many years for our partners, who in turn can expect to make significant savings while making a lasting impact on the environment,” said Green Heat Director Glenn Tong in a press statement.
Green Heat accounts for over 40 percent of the solar rooftop installations in the Philippines, 85 percent of which are commercial installations, while the rest are residential installations.
Embracing solar power is part of the overall commitment to environmental sustainability of SM Prime, of which SM Supermalls is one of the businesses.
Among the sustainability initiatives that SM has implemented in its malls are a trash-to-cash campaign, a clean air program for smoke-free establishments within its community, and an energy program using its enterprise building automation system.