Two years into the coronavirus outbreak, there is no denying that the world has changed. At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, governments all around the world scrambled to find ways to contain the pandemic.
The virus also unleashed a deadly blow to the global economy, disrupting supply chains and forcing businesses to halt operations.
The power industry was not spared from the effects of the pandemic. Industry players had to think quickly and strategically about how to adapt to the new normal.
Power distribution utilities like the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) had to ensure that safeguards are in place so that operations regain stability at the soonest possible time as it put even more important to the health and safety of its customers and employees.
The current situation also underscored the importance of continuous, reliable, sufficient, and cost-competitive electricity supply that is necessary to carry out the efforts to fight COVID-19, to help businesses recover, and to sustain the needs of the people who are working from home.
Power service in 2020 most stable in NCR—study
As the Philippines continues to thread the challenges and impacts of the pandemic, Meralco lives up to its commitment to deliver impressive electricity service to its customers.
Data from the Department of Energy (DoE) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) showed that Meralco has among the lowest rates in the Philippines, according to energy think tank Energy Intel Philippines.
National Capital Region (NCR), which is served solely by Meralco, has the fourth-lowest generation charge at P4.38 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) in 2020.
Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (CALABARZON), portions of which are also served by Meralco, registered the third lowest generation charge of P4.27 per kWh in the same year.
The lowest generation charges in 2020 were recorded in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Eastern Visayas which were at P3.91 per kWh and P4.13 per kWh, respectively.
Even with one of the lowest rates, Meralco fulfills its mandate to deliver efficient and reliable electric service.
Energy Intel Philippines also stated that Meralco tops other regions in terms of the frequency and duration of its power interruptions – which are both indicators of service stability and reliability.
Meralco’s system average interruption frequency index (SAIFI), a metric that shows how often customers experience a sustained power interruption that lasts more than five minutes, was the lowest in the Philippines at 1.501 times in 2020, a 15 percent improvement compared to the 1.769 times in 2019.
Meanwhile, the distributor’s system average interruption duration index (SAIDI), the average duration of interruptions per consumer, improved to only 163 minutes in 2020 from the 188.37 minutes a year prior.
Meralco aims to further lower its SAIFI to only one time and SAIDI to 100 minutes. In fact, in its latest performance report, the company’s SAIFI and SAIDI even went further down to only 1.154 times and only 109 minutes, respectively, as of end-September.
As a result of its system loss management initiatives, Meralco’s system loss as of end-September improved to 5.61 percent from 6.18 percent in the same period in 2020 – and well below the ERC’s 6.5 percent cap.
Balancing service with compassion
Cognizant of the challenges being faced by its customers amidst the pandemic, Meralco deferred disconnection activities as early as March 2020. The suspension remained in areas that were under strict quarantine classifications until October 2021.
Customers who are also encountering difficulty in settling their dues have been given the option to avail of installment plans of four to six months to give them more time to pay their electricity bills.
In addition, Meralco introduced innovations to make it even easier and safer for customers to reach out by offering virtual customer assistant (VCA) services and online customer appointment (OCA) services.
The VCA allows customers to speak to Meralco representatives working from home, while OCA provides scheduled visits at business centers if they still feel the need to do so.
Meralco also worked with Bayad Center to have VCAs available at select Bayad Centers, with more VCAs continuously being rolled out.
Meralco President and CEO Atty. Ray C. Espinosa said: “Over the past months, Meralco had been called to provide continued quality service under unprecedented situations. We have seen and heard firsthand the plight of our customers who have been economically challenged by the pandemic, and we took it upon ourselves to respond with the kind of service they need now – consistent and reliable, but most of all, driven by humanity and compassion.”
COVID-19 facilities highly prioritized
To support the government’s fight against the pandemic, Meralco also works to energize key facilities, including hospitals and vaccination centers.
Through the Meralco COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-out Task Force, Meralco is closely monitoring in real-time all circuits serving these vital facilities, which allows the distributor to respond faster to any unforeseen outage.
To date, over 140 COVID-19 facilities have already been energized by the distribution giant and this includes government offices, hospitals, testing laboratories, quarantine and vaccination centers, and vaccine storage facilities.
Among these facilities are the Mega Field Hospital at the Rizal Park; the Tondo Health Center that will be used as a vaccination center; We Heal As One Treatment Center in Pasay City; the Pharmaserv Vaccine Storage Facility and the COVID-19 Vaccination Facility in Marikina; the RT-PCR Testing Center in Makati City; the COVID-19 Treatment Facility in Malabon City; and the Solaire- PAGCOR Mega Quarantine Facility in Paranaque City.
The list of these vital COVID-19 facilities, especially the vaccination centers, is expected to expand as the government ramps up the inoculation for the younger population. The company said it is committed to continuing to prioritize the energization of these COVID-19 vital institutions until the COVID-19 is eventually contained.
Infrastructure development and a more resilient distribution network
As the country moves towards post-pandemic recovery efforts, Meralco also supports infrastructure development and ensures that network facilities are in place for timely construction of some major transportation projects, including the EDSA Common Station, LRT-1 Cavite Extension, MRT-7, NLEX-SLEX Connector Road, and Skyway Stage 2.
The company as of end-September relocated a total of 1,170 electric poles to support the government’s Build Build Build projects, while some 933 electric poles have been retired for the road widening projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The company also continued to expand and upgrade facilities to build a more resilient distribution network. Major capital projects completed in the first nine months of 2021 include the expansion of the First Philippine Industrial Park (FPIP) substation and San Mateo substation.
Just recently, Meralco also announced that it was transforming a 2.1-hectare property in Paco, Manila into a sustainable Meralco facility for a period of 10 years.