By Joe Zaldarriaga

Towards energy security

Barely halfway through the dry season, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) already warned that heat indices in the coming days could exacerbate further to become extremely dangerous, which means that energy demand is likely to spike along with it too.

Last week’s series of red and yellow alert declarations by the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) could be seen as a preview of what could happen again in the succeeding days as energy demand continues to rise with more Filipinos using cooling appliances longer and more frequently to cope with the unbearable heat.

The Luzon grid was placed on red alert for three days last week, which meant that the power supply was insufficient to meet the demand and that rotating power interruptions were on the horizon.

According to Department of Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, this was because of the unplanned outages of numerous power plants triggered by “extremely high temperatures.”

In Metro Manila and nearby areas serviced by Meralco, rotating power interruptions were largely avoided, thanks to the active participation of companies enrolled in the Interruptible Load Program (ILP). According to Meralco, nearly 2 million households were spared from rotating power interruptions last week because of the ILP.

If not for the support of the private sector to the ILP, thousands of Filipino households would have had to endure brownouts in this crippling heat.

The ILP is a government program that incentivizes companies that de-load from the grid during instances of red alert to relieve strain from the grid and spare households from power interruptions. Hopefully, more companies will enroll in the ILP these coming days in the spirit of Bayanihan.

Last week’s scenario only highlights the vulnerability of our energy infrastructure. It underscores the pressing need to hasten the development and operations of new power plants to bolster resilience and ensure energy security both in the short term and long term.

The recurring threat of rotating power interruptions should not be normalized and the ILP —while highly instrumental in preventing rotating power interruptions last week— should not be the go-to solution.

Demand will continue to increase along with economic growth and without additional capacity, rotating power interruptions will only keep on recurring.

It must be emphasized that at this point, power interruptions are not only an inconvenience to the public but rather a threat to economic growth, a danger to personal health, and a risk to the overall well-being of communities.

We need more power plants online so that more energy can be distributed to support our growing communities and economy.

Priority should be given to enabling a conducive environment for investments in new power plants and the implementation of measures that enable immediate action to augment our energy capacity. This includes favoring cleaner energy sources such as liquefied natural gas, and renewables and exploring new technologies like nuclear that could contribute to this shared goal.

Given the urgency of the situation, support should be directed to initiatives —whether by the public or private sector— that could help provide additional capacity and further diversify the country’s energy supply portfolio. This will not only address energy supply woes but will also enable increased economic activity and growth.

With the active collaboration of the government and the private sector, our country can accelerate the implementation of projects to boost capacity and strengthen our infrastructure, complemented by a firm commitment to sustainability and innovation to achieve energy security and a truly sustainable one.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.