‘Groundhog Day’ and NGCP’s ‘Yellow Alert’
The ‘90s fantasy comedy film “Groundhog Day” is about a self-centered weatherman who becomes trapped in a time loop, forcing him to relive his day repeatedly, which only ends when he finally changes his ways. The movie became so popular that “Groundhog Day” became part of the English lexicon to describe a “monotonous, unpleasant, and repetitive situation.”
We cannot help but feel a sense of déjà vu and describe the recent announcement of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) that the country will be on “Yellow Alert” again as being like “Groundhog Day.”
What is “Yellow Alert,” and how does it affect ordinary consumers? A Yellow Alert is raised when a power grid’s power reserve goes below the required level; it usually occurs around the dry season when there is higher demand for electricity. If the power supply falls further below the System Peak Demand, a red alert will be issued. This means that load-dropping or rotating power interruptions may be implemented. Worse, it may even cause an increase in the cost of electricity, based on the basic rule of supply and demand.
A Yellow Alert has been a recurring issue for years now since April 15, 2014. As consumers, we cannot see why the country is being subjected by the power industry to the same scenario of inefficiency over and over again, without coming up with a strategy to end the recurrence of a yellow warning once and for all.
This annual problem leaves consumers wondering if this could be, in fact, a marketing strategy to prime the public to accept unusually high prices in the power and energy spot market. For over seven years now, during the usual dry months, generation power plants simultaneously hold unexpected maintenance work, causing them to close or de-rate, bring down the supply, and consequently force market prices to go up.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, head of the Senate committee on energy, has called on the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Department of Energy (DOE) to look into the reported unplanned outages of some power plants in Luzon that recently triggered a spike in consumers’ electricity bills.
We at Kuryente.Org, a consumer welfare organization, support this call for an inquiry into this perennial problem. Energy consumers should not have to bear the inconveniences brought about by the unscheduled and seemingly simultaneous breakdowns of power plants, right when the demand is at its peak, and especially with the ongoing pandemic.
In addition to the probe being called by Gatchalian, the NGCP should provide a full audit on where it is right now in bringing the whole archipelago under one energy grid, and bringing excess energy supply from Mindanao and Negros Island to where that supply is needed across the country. The audit should include an update on the status of applications by different power plants that have been waiting for a long time to go on-grid.
It is imperative for Congress, the ERC, the DOE, and consumers alike to form a community that will empower collective consumer action to ensure that citizen welfare and the environment are promoted and protected. Consumer representation is key in ensuring transparency and accountability, particularly in businesses that provide critical public services such as the energy industry.
Similar to the ‘90s fantasy movie, the only way to get out of the time loop that we are in is for the NGCP and the rest of the energy industry to rethink, reimagine, and devise new approaches and strategies to prevent an annual announcement of the Yellow Alert. Anything less is a disservice to the country and to Filipino consumers.
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Nic Satur Jr. is the national coordinator of Kuryente.org, a consumer advocacy group focusing on energy issues.
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