FIRING LINE: Electricity for economic recovery

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

For the first time since the pandemic broke out, it seems the Philippines is beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Daily COVID-19 cases are down to 849 as of Nov. 16 and the positivity rate at a low range of 4-5 percent the last two weeks. Mobility restrictions have eased up to an Alert Level 2 in the National Capital Region (NCR), allowing the economy to open up.

Consequently, power demand increases with more establishments allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity. The energy industry now has to rise to the challenge of ensuring that it is ready to meet the demand for power at pre-pandemic levels. Electricity’s vital role in post-pandemic recovery could not be overstated enough.

Energy Literacy Philippines, a non-profit energy think tank in the country, recently released the results of its analysis of the industry for the year 2020. Part of it compared the average price of generation charge in different regions of the country. The results showed that NCR, which Meralco services, is among the top five areas with the lowest generation charge in the Philippines. It ranked fourth with an average price of P4.38 per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Two other Meralco service areas – Regions 4-A (Calabarzon) and 3 (Central Luzon) were ranked third with an average price of P4.27 per kWh and fifth with P4.51 per kWh, respectively. Meralco also showed exemplary performance in its basic service of keeping the lights on (or fewer power interruptions) for its customers – a gauge for reliability over other distributors, as noted by Energy Literacy Philippines.

Efficiency in managing its system loss level is also one of Meralco’s best practices which analysts say electric cooperatives in the country should follow. However, while I believe quality management is a Meralco benchmark for all other electric cooperatives in the country, I can’t hide my apprehensions for the future of supply.

The Malampaya natural gas field is on its end-stage and, quite frankly, under suspicious new control by Dennis Uy’s Udenna company. Already, electricity rates are increasing every month and, along with a shortage in supply, come power interruptions.

A friend of mine in Meralco assures me these concerns are also being addressed. At present, Meralco has been contracting new suppliers and developing its own supply through its generation arm in a bid to drive down prices and boost supply assurance.

Recently, Meralco bid for 70 megawatts of additional requirements in anticipation of the election season. Firing Line only hopes this advance planning and action are also being done by other power cooperatives and distribution utilities in the country. A stable, reliable, and adequate supply of power for all Filipinos is the key to our post-pandemic economic recovery.


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SHORT BURSTS. For comments or reactions, email firingline@ymail.com or tweet @Side_View. Read current and past issues of this column at https://www.thephilbiznews.com

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