Sunday, March 17, 2013

series of extended power outages - why?

The recent 'brownouts' due to reduction of power supply in Mindanao has been affecting the residents, the small manufacturers and other business establishments.  In  Gen. Santos City (Gensan), this translated to 'rotational brownouts' to the dismay of the many if not all. The outages last from 2 to 7 hours in a day. As expected, it is not a welcome news, even so for the southern Philippines region. 

But even before these series of extended power outages (sometimes scheduled and announced),  Zamboanga and other cities have already experienced 'brownouts' due to the decision of state-run National PowerCorporation (NAPOCOR) to reduce power supply in the city by several megawatts (MW). It is in this event that Gensan suffers the same fate as power supply in the region was cut by hundreds of MW (coupled with the steadily increasing demand) according to the National Grid of Corporation of the Philippines.

Here's how 'The Grid' thing works: A power grid consists of a set of large power plants (hydropower plants, nuclear power plants, etc.) all connected together by wires. It also works as a power-distribution system because it allows sharing. If a power company needs to take a power plant or a transmission tower off line for maintenance, the other parts of the grid can pick up the slack.

For instance, you have tens of thousands of power consumers using megawatts of power, at that exact moment, you have several power plants producing exactly the right amount of power to satisfy all of that demand. And you have all the transmission and distribution lines sending the power from the power plants to the households, offices and/or businesses.
The system, even as it works on an efficient level, is not perfect. There can be situations too (say when there is high demand) that the interconnected nature of the grid makes the system may fail (hence a sudden power outage/interruption). Sometimes, to avoid that (or to secure some level of supply in the coming weeks), the power distributor opts to 'ration' the power supply, hence scheduled 'brownouts'.

Gensan Mayor Darlene Custodio openly presented in her latest State of the City Address (SOCA) the fear that the power situation in the city could get worse and somehow implied that her hands are tied regarding this matter. She tried suggesting several moves which revolved around consumers, offices and businesses to minimize power demand in their own end.

Yes, this is basic supply and demand material. The higher the population (both residence and industry players), the higher the demand for energy. When demand is higher than supply, adjustments may be either [1.] to increase the price (for such good/service) or [2.] to lower the quantity (which may have been their preference) or [c.] both. As consumers, we can only accept this event if it doesn't result to inconvenience and a lot of unwanted changes in our routines among others, but it does...

As to the problem of supply, one solution is to build significant amounts of excess capacity (for example extra power plants, extra transmission lines). With extra capacity, it would be able to pick up the load the moment something else failed.  Here, economics principle #1 would of course come in: with increased capacity is an increasing power charge (bill). So for now, as I assume we make the choice as a group to save some money, we try live with the risk of losing power every now and then :(

But then again, if this route (having electricity from source to our homes/businesses) is that established for many years, how come that we are now suffering the failure of the power distributors (or perhaps the local government) to act on the power crisis which (I believe) was foreseen years ago? Das ist die Frage!

1 comment:

Yadu Karu said...

Wow! very nice article Maam.. Na enlighten ko..