PHILIPPINES: Mdm Lyra Damian is a widow with five children and one grandchild, and taking care of them on her meagre pension is a daily struggle – especially with the high cost of electricity.
“I’m not happy with the current electricity rate. I hope they can make it more affordable as it is much higher for us compared to other countries,” she said.
Mdm Damian tries to save money by using hand fans during the day, the washing machine only twice a week and only ironing certain clothes such as school uniforms.
In a country where the electricity rates are the highest in Asia and with power shortages expected between March and June when electricity usage peaks due to the increased use of air-conditioning – Mdm Damian is not the only one struggling with the power situation.
Russel Printing Corporation is one of many small family-run businesses that suffer because of these regular outages. Owned by Mr Michael Balino, the sound of his printing press can usually be heard across his neighbourhood in San Antonio Village, Manila – except during the increasingly frequent power cuts.
“If there is a power shortage in Manila, it will definitely affect small companies like ours,” said Mr Balino. “For example, this printing press runs on electricity and if there is less electricity, people will lose their jobs. It will affect our earnings and it will reduce the number of clients.”
A 700-megawatt power shortage, which is roughly the amount needed to power 350,000 homes, is projected to occur between March and July. One-hour blackouts are also expected everyday for 16 weeks this summer.
Part of the solution would be to build more power generation facilities and plants, but this will take time. Government and businesses have also considered more immediate ways to curb power usage.
Meralco, an electricity distributor, has launched the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), which encourages customers to use their own diesel fuel generators, easing the burden on the electrical grid.
While Philippine President Benigno Aquino said the ILP “is a plausible substitute”, he wants to see more being done to address the fundamental power shortage issue.
He cautions that electricity will likely become more expensive for consumers, but warns that consumers and businesses will be hardest hit when there is no power at all – with the economic cost of a summertime power outage estimated to range from US$207.6 million to US$520 million.
As power plants struggle to meet demand, residents and small businesses will be forced to cut their losses and find ways to manage in the dark and the stifling heat.