"We will be consuming more power to keep our homes comfortable, and our smart gadgets online for communications, transactions, and entertainment."
During pre-pandemic times, many of us would either be already on vacation leave for the Holy week holidays in our provincial hometowns or gearing up for that summer trip out of town. For the second year in a row, that’s not happening because of the new “bubble” lockdowns triggered by the string of record-breaking days of soaring COVID-19 infections which is fast approaching 10,000 a day!
We have to make do with this “staycation” mode and creative anti-boredom activities, using whatever and whoever we have in our domiciles. To do this, we have no choice but to rely on the online services that can only be accessed through our electronic devices.
Most likely, you’re reading this article from either your smartphone, desktop or laptop computer, or tablet while connected to a wired or mobile broadband service. These are now essential services that when disrupted for any reason will have catastrophic repercussions on every industry, and to everybody for that matter. As most of our waking hours are focused on the content projected in the screens of our smart devices, the complexity, and the magnitude of the industries responsible for delivering the electricity needed to keep our lives running is never appreciated – until there’s a brownout.
Uninterrupted and stable power is even more critical now that, for the continuity of all businesses, all transactions are forced to shift to non-contact technologies to avoid the virulent strains of COVID-19. As we await the delayed vaccines, the refrigeration and logistical requirements for proper storage and handling of these life-saving vials is yet another big responsibility for the power sector. To this task, the Department of Energy (DOE) issued last February a circular to the power industry to put in place all necessary contingency plans and emergency protocols in the event of power outages.
In response, the country’s biggest power distributor, Meralco, has extensively implemented an upgrade and rehabilitation program and has organized a task force to assure the stable power supply of COVID-19 vaccine storage facilities and various vaccination centers in the National Capital Region. All distribution facilities in the identified storage and vaccination facilities underwent complete inspection and fast power restoration procedures were set.
As of mid-March, Meralco has reported that it is closely monitoring 203 vaccination centers and 101 vaccine cold storage facilities. Among these is MetroPac Movers Inc. where 464,000 AstraZeneca and the 600,000 Sinovac doses were delivered for cold storage before deployment. Also under its watch are vaccination centers – the Philippine General Hospital, Rizal Medical Center, Pasay City General Hospital, Philippine National Police General Hospital, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital, and Lung Center of the Philippines among others.
New distribution transformers and other required equipment were installed and operationalized for over 90 COVID-19 facilities in various public and private hospitals, government agencies, quarantine and treatment centers, and testing laboratories. As of this writing, NCR health facilities are at critical occupancy levels and are operating 24/7.
Pre-pandemic summers used to be yellow and red-alert season because of increased consumption owing partly to the longer hours that our electric fans and air-conditioning units in homes and offices use, aggravated by lower production of hydroelectric plants due to low water levels. Add to that, and actually more critical, are scheduled maintenance and unexpected breakdowns of aging and inefficient power plants. Also, our economy was still booming then with power supply projected to be deficient relative to the rate of consumer demand.
Now that we are again under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) at just about the same time last year, no serious shortages are anticipated as consumption will remain to be muted. Economic activities will slow down because of lockdown restrictions. However, outages because of unforeseen circumstances that will cause power plant breakdowns or natural calamities is always a possibility that the power sector will need to quickly address.
A good lesson learned from the first ECQs was that essential operations and supply chains must continue to function. The big mistake last year which thankfully will not be a problem this time is when Meralco’s meter readers were unable to do routine meter readings. This created so much confusion and controversy when the Energy Regulatory Commission directed DUs to implement an estimated billing policy. DUs especially Meralco took the brunt of the pressure, but with a more flexible and compassionate approach towards each customer, was eventually solved resulting in a reportedly 85- to 90-percent resolution of outstanding electric bills.
As we now spend the next weeks at home, we will be consuming more power to keep our homes comfortable, and our smart gadgets online for communications, transactions, and entertainment. Try to be mindful of how you use your appliances to avoid a self-inflicted spike in electric bills.
Have a safe and Blessed Holy Week.