The seven hours brownout seems endless. This “mysterious phenomenon” happening in most parts of Mindanao led many to question the power of our government to solve this decade-old problem. Various conspiracy theories and illusionary answers are circulated to the public. As a result, unexplained confusion and anger are imprinted in the hearts and minds of the people. Some buy this tell-tale explanation while most of us are not satisfied.
For those who are not satisfied, some go to the street to protest or go online activism. Some research and gathered data, while others find alternative solutions to this problem.
This crisis is not new to us. For example, in 2010, General Santos City experienced severe rotational brownout. Fast forward to 2013, the scenario is still the same – same problem, same answers, and the same reactions. And because I am one of those affected consumers of electricity, I conducted my own research and interview people to find possible solutions to this problem.
Numerous solutions have been raise. Some are realistic while some are just wishful thinking. I gathered top three solutions to the power crisis in GenSan (or in Mindanao in general) to make us aware what would be the suitable, affordable and of course the best.
· Conserve Energy
The electric crisis connotes conserving of energy. In the State of the City Address (SOCA) of Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio last March 15, 2013, she encouraged the Generals (people living in GenSan) to save energy in the wake of the worsening power shortage in Mindanao grid. As she said, the city government will employ energy-saving measures, like replacing streetlights and office lamps to LED (light emitting diode). This will reduce the power consumption up to 25%.
According to Rey L. Billena, the Vice President of the General Santos City Chamber of Commerce Inc. (GSCCCI), this crisis is a matter of choice – whether you are part of the problem or the solution. He pointed out the importance of finding solutions rather than just complaining and put the blame to others without doing any action. The GSCCCI conducted research and studied this crisis. The GSCCCI along with the Local Government of GenSan and the South Cotabato Electric Cooperative II (SOCOTECO II) agreed and propose these possible solutions:
o Interruption Load Program (ILP) – It is about large customers (e.g. malls & tuna processing companies) that volunteers not to draw electricity from SOCOTECO II for a certain period of the day; instead they will be operating their own standby generator sets.
o Unplug the refrigerator – In the GenSan Power Forum held last March 27, 2013, Rodolfo Ocat, the General Manager of SOCOTECO II explains the importance of unplugging refrigerator in a peak hours. In his presentation he gives example:
Assuming of the 135,000 SOCOTECO II consumers, 20% of them owns a refrigerator with average of 200W each of this is equivalent to 5,400KW – 5,400KW =(135,000 x 20% x 200)/100 or 5.4 MW (5.4MW will be save from this energy saving tip). The 4 hours of unplugging of refrigerator (daily) would not totally defrost the refrigerator. The inconvenience of the 4 hours “unplugged ref” could not be directly felt by the consumers especially the residents. It can save P166.80 per month at P6.95 per kWh – P166.80 = (200/1000) x 4 x 30 x P6.95).
o Replacement of streets & office lights into energy-saving lights like LED.
|photo from www.arkibongbayan.org|
· Repeal the EPIRA LAW
On June 8, 2001, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed the Republic Act 9136, or the Electric Power Industry Act of 2001. This law is designed to reduce the electricity rates and to improve the distinction of power to the consumers. This essence of these is giving stakeholders a CHOICE:
Consumer Empowerment. This can be achieved by giving consumers the power to choose their source of electricity from among a host of generators and suppliers of electricity.
Higher Efficiency. Consumers will be assured of adequate and reliable power supply at lower rates.
Open Access. There will be open access to transmission and distribution network/ facilities so that the benefits of competition in the generation/supply sector could really trickle down to the consumers.
Industry Accountability. There will be higher levels of environmental, health and safety standards. Non-complying companies will be subject to appropriate fines and penalties. There will be higher levels of environmental, health and safety standards. Non-complying companies will be subject to appropriate fines and penalties.
Competition in Generation and Supply. There will be competition between and among generating companies where prices will be market-driven and competitive. There will be long-term contracts and a spot market where the trading of electricity between buyers and sellers will be undertaken. There will be competition between and among generating companies where prices will be market-driven and competitive. There will be long-term contracts and a spot market where the trading of electricity between buyers and sellers will be undertaken.
Electricity Tariff Unbundling. This includes the itemization and the segregation of various components of electricity tariffs to make the rates more transparent. With rates unbundled, customers will be able to know how much they would be paying for generation, transmission, distribution and other benefits or charges.
This law was controversial during its approval. Various sectors opposed to it because of its bad implication to the consumers. After a decade, this law is more of a burden to the consumers than a solution to the problem. The Philippines has now the most expensive electricity in Asia.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) has urged Congress to repeal the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA). FDC Vice president Manjanette Lopez said, “11 years after was enacted into law, EPIRA totally failed to meet its intended objective of ensuring the ‘quality, reliability, security and affordability of the supply of electric power’.”
Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tanada III also said that “it is about time that we realize that the insecurity of our power system is the result of a structural defect introduced by the EPIRA. I believe that it was grave error for EPIRA, as envisioned and implemented, to have removed government role in power generation in a liberalized setting.”
STAND MSU also voice out their opinion. They said (via facebook):
“This issue is complex, it is not merely an issue of ‘power outages’ and ‘rotational brown-outs’. What lies underneath it all is a decade-old problem on the Mindanao electric power industry. We have long been wary of the occurrence of these brown-outs. And as with our past declarations, we fear that there is more to this story than what meets the eye. We recognize that indeed there is a shortage in electric power in our island. This is ironic since our island is filled with possible sources of electricity (hydro, geo-thermal, wind, etc).”
“The heart of the problem lies on the government's sell-out of our RIGHT TO CHEAP ELECTRICITY in favor to corporate interests. Since the enactment into law of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act or EPIRA Law, this has led to the (1) privatization of the power industry (in short the RESPONSIBILITY of GENERATING AND DISTRIBUTING electricity has been devolved to the private sector, which in turn sees this as an opportunity to earn more super-profits), (2) utter disregard of the Agus-Pulangi hydro powerplants (these power plants CAN support our electricity needs, but it badly needs repair and rehabilitation, something which the government is not interested in doing), and (3) the proliferation of proposals for DIRTY SOURCES of electricity (like coal-fired power plants, which in reality, do not really seek to address the problem on power shortage but simply to provide the electricity needed for the operation of large-scale mining activities).”
According to Arnold Padilla, the EPIRA Law was passed because of the financial woes of National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR). In his well-research article posted in his blog he said:
“EPIRA provides the legal framework for the privatization of NAPOCOR and deregulation of the power industry….The passage of EPIRA was a conditionality set by the creditors of NAPOCOR for it to access additional loans. Among its largest creditors were the Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank, and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). These creditors were worried that NAPOCOR, with its worsening financial problems, might not be able to pay them back. The pressure from these creditors provided the impetus for EPIRA’s enactment.”
“… Rates have soared because EPIRA allowed the continued collection of the notorious purchased power adjustment (PPA).The PPA was a pre-EPIRA cost recovery mechanism so that NAPOCOR can increase its rates and pay for its ballooning obligations arising from its take-or-pay contracts with the IPPs. Take-or-pay basically means that NAPOCOR will pay an IPP for a fixed capacity regardless if such capacity was used or not. For consumers, it means that they pay for electricity that they did not even use.”
When EPIRA was implemented, the PPA was replaced by other means of cost recovery; this is the Generation rate adjustment mechanism (GRAM). “NAPOCOR recoups every quarter although the amount must be approved first by the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). Meanwhile, DUs that have their own IPPs like MERALCO can automatically recover every month the change in generation cost thru the Automatic Adjustment of Generation Rates and Systems Loss Rates (AGRA). Aside from GRAM and AGRA, consumers are also being burdened by the Incremental Currency Exchange Rate Adjustment (ICERA). Thru the ICERA, hapless end-users of electricity shoulder the losses of companies arising from fluctuations in the foreign exchange. To illustrate, if the cost of imported oil or coal used by generation companies went up because the peso- dollar exchange rate rose, the increment will be paid for by the consumers. Like the GRAM, ICERA is recovered quarterly and needs ERC consent.”
In his concluding statement he said:
“EPIRA has resulted in the doubling of power rates and intensification of private monopolies. At the same time, it failed to address the financial problems of NAPOCOR and the country’s energy security. Only NAPOCOR’s creditors and private local and foreign companies have benefitted from power restructuring. For these reasons, there is a clear and urgent need for our policy makers to seriously rethink the law and work for its repeal.”
- Renewable Energy
Environmentalist and other concern citizens really advocate renewable source of energy. It is not only safe to the environment and health of the people, but it is also affordable. For example, “hydropower is clean, leaves behind no residue and is efficient. It converts 90 percent of the available energy into electricity at about one-quarter of the cost of fossil fuel – powered electrical generation. The use of hydropower prevents the burning of 22 billion gallons of oil or 120 million tons of coal each year – and that’s an important savings in terms of greenhouse gases.”
Renewable energy – solar, hydro, wind, geothermal – helps save the environment. Unlike fossil fuels (coal, petroleum, natural gas and propane) that emit carbon dioxide and could destroy earth, water and air.
“Based on current projections of the Department of Energy (DOE), renewable energy is foreseen to provide up to 40 percent of the country's primary energy requirements over the ten-year period beginning in 2003. Although its share will decline in relation to the total figure, it is estimated to grow at an average annual rate of 2.4 percent in absolute terms. Biomass, micro-hydro, solar and wind will remain to be the largest contributors to the total share of renewable energy in the energy mix with an average share of 27.5 percent. Meanwhile, hydro and geothermal will contribute the balance and continue to be a significant source of electric power.”
But in advocating this renewable source of energy, the DOE pointed out the major constraints that need to be addressed: i) Insufficient fiscal and financial incentives; (ii) Lack of public awareness of the benefits of RE projects (socio-environmental concerns); (iii) Absence of commercially viable market for RE systems; and, (iv) Relatively high cost of technology. To address these barriers, the government is formulating programs and projects to stimulate greater private-led investments in the sector, promote RE technologies as competitive energy options and maximize the use of RE potentials.
The environmentalists are not convinced with this reasons. They said that it is matter of political will, period.
Other possible solutions are buying modular Gensets, building new power plants, rehabilitation of Agus-Pulangi hydro power plants, signing a new contract to private electric companies, and the President’s declaration of emergency power.
These are some of the possible solutions proposed by the government, private sectors, environmentalists and concern citizens. The said solutions have pros and cons in their own terms. According to our President, Mindanao will have stable power in 2015. That’s why our local government as well as SOCOTECO II is finding short (and long) term solutions to this crisis.
As consumers, we demand transparency and accountability. We need to know and understand the real story behind this crisis. The amalgamation of business and politics created a blinding mechanism that conceals the truth. Whatever score with this issue, we hope for the best and nothing else.
Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.