Consumers turn to solar lamps amid brownouts

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Friday, May 9, 2014

DAVAO CITY -- Dabawenyos found a way to safely deal with the rotating brownouts bugging most of Mindanao regions.

Consumers in Davao City have turned to China-made solar light-emitting diode (LED) lamps that have proliferated in the market since the start of the rotational brownouts to do away with the usual use of candle that often is the cause of power-related fire.

However, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Davao Region cannot ascertain yet the safety of the solar lamp use.


DTI senior specialist Alvin Aranas said the solar lamp products are not yet included in the agency's monitoring list.

"I cannot say anything about that. We have not regulated it yet. Subukuan lang nila and check the quality," he said.

He added the agency has not tested if these products are safe or can last long.

Stores along R. Magsaysay Ave. popularly known as Uyanguren, are cashing in on China-made solar-powered lamps and emergency lights, following the long rotational brownouts hitting most parts of the city for 7.5 hours.

A saleslady of a store in the city’s Chinatown, who refused to be named, said in an interview that sales have increased by many folds specifically for the solar LED lamps.

Last Wednesday, she said they sold three boxes of solar-powered LED lamps, each box containing 40 lamps.

Each solar LED lamp is sold at P240, but prices are cut down to P210 each when bought by wholesale (that is three or more lamps).

According to its specifications, each has a LED life of 50,000 hours and takes about eight-hour charging time under sunlight.

Cyrene Jusay, a resident in Cabantian, said she plans to buy some units, since using candles is more prone to fire incidents.

Brownouts worsened not only in Davao City, but the rest of Mindanao after the 200-MW Steag 1 and Steag 2 bogged down on February 27, 2014. The system downtime spanned for months, but Aboitiz Power Corporation announced Wednesday that Steag 2 was already back on the Mindanao grid.

However, according to National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the power deficit on Friday on the island stood at 277MW.

The power sector attributed the curtailment mainly to reduce generation capacity of the Agus-Pulangi Hydropower complexes due to the decreased water levels brought about by the summer period.

Steag 2's operation back to the Mindanao grid may not have been felt in Davao City, but it have increased the power ration to Cagayan Electric Power and Light Company (Cepalco) cutting the power outage to five hours instead of the regular 7.5 hours.

Marilyn Chavez, senior manager and also customer community relations manager of Cepalco, said some areas didn't experience a power outage at all while others only experience around 3.5 hours brownout.

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“We’re looking at the possibility that the interruption would only be five to six hours,” she said, but clarified that there are no guarantees.

The National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) Central Office spokesperson lawyer Cynthia Alabanza said the allocation of power is issued by the National Power Corporation (NPC), NGCP is only implementing it.

President Benigno Aquino III blamed the former leaders of Mindanao for the present power shortage experienced around the island, primarily, for not participating in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).

“President Aquino has long said that way back in the 2010 Power Summit in Davao and I’ve already answered him on that very event. He (Aquino) already knew the answer,” Association of Mindanao Rural Electric Cooperatives (Amreco) president Sergio Dagooc told Sun.Star in a text message.

“I don’t want to repeat everything over and over again because pointing fingers is not helping solve the problem. It’s better that everyone just work. In our part, we are doing everything to balance the need to look for additional supply while taking into account the electricity rate impact to the consumers,” he furthered.

“It’s so easy to say that we should raise the electricity payments if you have the resources to pay, but there are a lot who have a hard time paying their electricity bills,” he said.(Sun.Star Davao with Riz P. Sunio and Alyssa C. Clenuar of Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro)

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 10, 2014.

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