Will Cebu unplug?

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

CAN we switch some lights or appliances off now? Right now?

Counting on the persistence of children, Cebu’s largest power distributor will rely on their help to remind households to use less power, especially since supply remains limited.

The Visayan Electric Company (Veco) will launch today (Thursday) its Cebu Unplugged campaign by taking pledges from young scouts who will be asked to make sure their families adopt eight ways to conserve power.

INFOGRAPHICS: Power saving tips


“We want children to be our main agents in this advocacy,” said Sebastian Lacson, Veco's chief operating officer (COO).

Peak demand in Metro Cebu has reached 453 megawatts (mw) this month, higher than the peak demands of the two previous summers.

The campaign will call on households to, among others, unplug appliances, particularly those for heating and cooling; defrost refrigerators regularly; use energy-efficient appliances; and use gas, instead of electric, ovens and stoves.

Demand rising

While the increase in demand remains within the power distributor’s forecast, said Lacson, rapid growth in Cebu and the lack of new generating sources have kept supply in the Visayas “very tight.” This week, he cited, the grid’s supply peaked at 1,600 mw, while peak system demand was 1,578 mw. Veco’s share is 457 mw.

“What we’re trying to do here is, since we cannot do anything about the supply, we’ll address the demand side,” Lacson said.

Cool temperatures from January to March helped keep power demand down, but starting this month, the need to reduce power demand, particularly from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., has become critical.

“In other countries, power during peak times is more expensive; that’s one way to address that. But right now our energy is not time-discriminated,” Lacson said in a press conference on Wednesday.

In Veco’s Banilad office, at least 976 40-watt fluorescent lights have been replaced with 19-watt LED lights, a decision that soon proved cost-effective. “The payback was very quick, one and a half years,” he recalled.


What the campaign aims to do is get people to think about and make choices that will let them avoid wasting power, said Maria Theresa Sederiosa, Veco's corporate communications manager. She pointed out that households don’t really need to use refrigerators and water dispensers simultaneously; the latter can be switched off and unplugged when hot water is no longer needed.

Cebu Unplugged pledge cards will soon be distributed along with electricity bills to gain support for the campaign.

Around 30 companies are already helping Veco cope with critical supply in some periods, by using generator sets, for which the power distributor compensates them.

Participants of the Interruptible Load Program (ILP) have helped Veco avoid power cuts, especially right after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last November 8, 2013 knocked out supply from power generation plants in Leyte.

The ILP participants include Aboitiz Equity Ventures, International Pharmaceuticals Inc., Oakridge, San Miguel Corp., SM City Cebu and Waterfront Hotel.

The recognition of ILP partners will also be among the Cebu Unplugged activities, along with the unveiling of an installation by the artist Leeroy New, an energy forum and discussions with local governments.

Early start

The scouts, whose participation Veco will formally launch Thursday, will be exercising the Cebu Unplugged campaign “as part of their community service activities,” Lacson said.

Just as their voluntary participation in the ILP has not been that profitable for these companies, households that adopt the eight ways to use less power may not see large savings in their power bills, said Sederiosa.

But taken collectively, the power that households save could be what will keep Cebu from brownouts.

“Even when the new plants come in, some people will have to make sacrifices. Transmission lines would have to be built and these may cross some properties,” Lacson pointed out. “Cebuanos have to understand that some sacrifices will have to be made.”

According to the energy department’s Power Development Plan for 2009-2030, unless new supply sources enter the picture, power supply in the Visayas could hit a critical point in 2018.

By getting children involved in keeping demand down, Lacson said, Veco hopes to make energy conservation a popular habit, starting now. (Sun.Star Cebu)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 29, 2014.

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