My son, Aaron, who writes on this site weekly, is a pretty smart guy. I wonder where he got his smarts from? 😉
This week, he wrote an article about the fact that we are experiencing some pretty long brownouts in Davao right now. Aaron gave some reasons why he thinks that Davao Light is to blame, or at least has some blame, in the current power crisis that the City is experiencing.
Like I said, Aaron is a pretty intelligent guy, and I usually agree with what he says. This time, though, I mostly disagree with his thoughts and analysis of our power situation. Let me go through his various points on why Davao Light is to blame for the current crisis, and share my thoughts on each point and why I disagree.
They have had months to know
One thing that Aaron argues is that Davao Light has had “months” to know that a crisis is underway and they did not prepare for it. Truth is that the situation has been bad and been known about for years. I remember back in 2006 reading a news article, and then writing about it on another of my websites. The article was about the power crisis that would be hitting Mindanao. The lack of power generation, and other reasons why would be in a crisis situation in Mindanao in terms of our ability to provide electricity.
During the past years, a number of fairly substantial power plants have been built on the island. Almost exclusively coal fired power plants around the island, but also some additional hydro plants have been put into operation in the past 10 years. So, things have been done to alleviate the problem.
So, why is there is there still a power problem?
Well, there are several reasons. Many new coal fired plants have been held up because people are protesting because they don’t like generating power using coal. They feel that it is a dirty technology. I am not an engineer or a power expert. I read that there are new technologies that allow coal to be used in a clean way. I also read others say that it is not true what we hear about clean coal. For me, I like having electricity, so if we must have some technologies that are not as clean as others, I choose to have electricity. I do believe that we should have a mix of technologies, some are cleaner than others, but we should use all technologies available.
Maria Cristina Falls
One of the major sources of electricity on the island of Mindanao over the past decades has been hydro electric power. Much of it created using various dams and waterfalls along the Agus River. One of the big sources is from Maria Christina Falls, which is in Iligan City, in Northern Mindanao. In fact, most of the hydro power comes from this region.
There are a couple of problems with the hydro generation in Mindanao at this time.
- Poor maintenance of the system. Much of the equipment in the hydro generation system in Mindanao is very old, and I mean from the 50s or even before that. That means multiple breakdowns and also inefficiencies.
- Rivers that need to be dredged. Many of the rivers have a real build up of silt and lack depth because of it. That causes problems for some of the generation capability, and leads to less power being available for consumers.
- El Nino. Because of the El Nino weather pattern that the world is experiencing this year, that means drought here in Mindanao. Drought means that there is a lot less water going over the falls and in the rivers, and that means problems for generating electricity through those means.
Why doesn’t Davao Light fix this?
So, if the three problems listed above are causing such a problem, why doesn’t Davao Light and Power Company fix the problems? Well, Davao Light is just a distribution company. They really don’t have the right or authority to go fix the problems. They just buy electricity from the companies that have power and generate power, and they distribute the power that they buy to the energy consumers in Davao City. Davao Light cannot go to the dams or the waterfalls and do maintenance, they do not own the facilities. Of course, Davao Light cannot change the weather.
Davao Light’s parent company is Aboitiz, and Aboitiz has built some energy plants, primarily coal fired plants. I believe they have also put up some hydro plants in the Davao area over the past decade as well. Davao Light buys the power generated by these plants that are owned by Aboitiz.
So, yes, I can agree with Aaron that Davao Light has some liability in this particular area, since it is their parent company that is involved, but only indirect responsibility.
It takes years
Putting up new power plants cannot be done in a few months or even a few years. It will take at least a few years to even get governmental approval for power plants to be built. That is not the fault of Davao Light. No matter what type of power is considered, there will be people who will protest it. There are people who are against solar, against wind, against coal, and especially against nuclear. Believe it or not, a lot of people here in the Philippines are begging for nuclear energy to be implemented. We, and other residents of the Philippines, want to have electricity!
But, Aaron argues that the people with power over the situation have had months to prepare. Realistically, it would take 10 years or so to be able to implement the changes needed to ensure power supply. So, what it comes down to is this… let’s get started! Let’s put up some serious solar power operations in Mindanao. Let’s put up some wind power generation. Yeah, let’s do some more coal fired plants too. We have some serious geothermal operations on Mt. Apo, can we increase that too?
The bottom line is, let’s have some power! But, I can’t see how Davao Light is seriously to blame for the current problems.
Don’t you think that Davao Light wants power?
Davao Light is a business. They make money by selling electricity to their clients. Right now, if you look at their webpage and their Facebook, you will see a lot of super pissed off customers. People are cussing them out. People are very mad at them. Do you think that Davao Light is enjoying this? No, I don’t think so. I am sure that if Davao Light could have an unlimited supply of power tomorrow, they would love that. With power being short, it is making their lives difficult. From everything I see, it would seem that the people at Davao Light are doing all they can to provide power to the people of Davao City. Problem is, there just is not much power available for various reasons.
I choose to cut them some slack, but keep pushing them to improve the situation.
What do you think? Actually, Aaron, I would like to hear your response on this, since you seem to feel that Davao Light is responsible for the problems.