PGTW: Remember Aksiong

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 6 February 2014, Thursday

Remember Aksiong

As if we weren’t already doing so, the Department of Energy is urging consumers to implement electricity-conserving measures in the face of a tightening power supply this year.

At the Senate last week, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla warned that the country will have to endure periods of tight supply or even deficit.

Demand in Luzon is expected to peak in May at around 10,300 to 10,400 megawatts, to reach 10,500 MW with power outages taken into account. Available capacity is at around 10,500 MW.

Unless energy projects in the pipeline come online as expected, there might be a 184 MW shortage in Luzon, affecting some 700,000 homes under the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

In the Visayas, peak demand in May will be around 1,781 MW. Energy projects will kick in by June onward, meaning a deficit of 80 MW around May.

Mindanao is already suffering from a deficit and hours of shortage throughout the week. Peak demand is expected to hit 1,760 MW in July and over 1,800 MW in December. Available capacity is only around 1,536 MW.

The DoE is expecting energy projects nationwide to come online within this year until 2015 and perhaps beyond. The energy output of the new projects is anticipated to address the existing shortage and our growing economy’s demand for more power.

The sources of energy include geothermal, coal, wind, natural gas, liquefied natural gas,

biomass, and hydro.

We can hardly wait for these projects to be completed and ease the country’s power shortage. Until then, we may have to bear higher electricity fees in the coming months if total outages are to be staved off.

Meralco asked the Supreme Court to lift its temporary restraining order on a P4.15 per kilowatt increase in its rates, saying that rotating blackouts could doom Metro Manila unless they are allowed to collect the higher fees.

The power utility behemoth said they will not gain from the rate increase, which they will apply to pass-through charges as they are obliged to buy more expensive power from the wholesale electricity spot market given the shutdown of Malampaya and other power generation plants.

The Philippines groans under the second highest power rates in Asia (as of 2012). It’s been said many times that this is one of the factors retarding economic development – who’d want to invest in manufacturing or other business here when your cost for electricity is that high?

Of more relevance to regular folk like me is how the power issue impacts our individual lives. The blood drains from my face every time I get my Meralco bill. It isn’t that we waste power. People of my generation grew up learning energy conservation measures – remember ‘Aksiong Aksaya’?

Created by Tony Zorilla in the ‘70s, ‘Asiong’ is now considered a classic advertising campaign, with the clever Larry Alcala cartoons of that flat-headed guy and his excessive use of resources – power, water, gasoline, you name it, he wasted it. The character was so popular that a movie was made starring the late great comedian Chiquito as Aksiong.

Many of us already employ energy conservation measures – no one wants to be called an Asiong Aksaya! So we use an airconditioner only at night and switch it off in the wee hours when the room is cool. We don’t iron pambahay clothes, only those for office and school. The electric fan and other appliances are switched off when no one is using them. We got an energy-efficient refrigerator. We replaced incandescents with those new low-wattage, high-illumination light fixtures. We don’t even watch TV anymore, we read. Our indulgence – but we’d say it’s a necessity – is our use of laptops to access the Internet, with the modem of course also plugged in.

We’re already doing the best we can to conserve energy. But how are we going to cope with a P4.15 per KW hour increase? What other measures can we do, short of getting off the grid altogether? Some things we can’t do away with, such as refrigerators.

It’s time to break out your grandmother’s stuff – the charcoal iron, charcoal stoves and grills, pamaypay, hammocks in the garden, and the rest of the old-fashioned implements that don’t need to be plugged in.

Because while we’re waiting for all those energy projects to be done, and for the court to decide on the Meralco TRO, we still have to live our lives.

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