Will the day come when the Philippines goes into perpetual brownout status? Sometimes it seems so.
Firstly, for those who are new readers, let me explain what a “brownout” is. Basically, it is what you would think of as a blackout. Here in the Philippines, though, they call it a brownout.
When Feyma and I first moved to the Philippines in 2000, we had brownouts almost every day. Usually it was just 30 minutes or so, but sometimes it was an hour or two. On rare occasions it might go for a half day, but rarely longer than that.
After we lived in General Santos for two years, the brownouts were less frequent. It was at that time that we moved to Davao City, and brownouts were very rare in Davao. We were very thankful. Over our years in Davao, brownouts became almost non-existent. I think that we had years where we didn’t have more than one or two power interruptions in a full year, and they were quite short. That’s not much difference than we experienced when living in the States, so things were quite normal.
Last year, though, brownouts started becoming more frequent, sometimes daily, although not usually. Still, there were noticeably more brownouts in 2009 than we had been experiencing for years. So far, there have not been many brownouts in 2010, thankfully. However, the news is bleak. When we watch the news on TV, we see that our friends up on Luzon are starting to experience regular brownouts now. The problem stems from some power plants up north being out of commission, at least temporarily. Power problems have started spreading in to the Visayas region too, and even in Northern Mindanao. So far, here in Davao, though, we have not been hit by the latest round of brownouts.
Part of the reason that Davao has yet to be hit is because Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) has a fair amount of backup power generation capability. In Bajada there is a large Power Generation Facility. The Bajada generator plant is only used when power coming from the Mindanao grid is not enough for the city. However, the Bajada plant is not enough to power the whole City, and it is also only designed for temporary use, not continuous power for the City, or even a large part of the City. For the past two weeks, I have been told, the Bajada plant has been running 24/7, and it has basically kept Davao with power for that time. Without the Bajada generating plant, we would have experienced many brownouts.
It is said, though, that the brownouts are coming to Davao too. Last week it was announced that most of the Philippines will begin having scheduled brownouts soon. They said that the scheduled brownouts will be for up to 4 hours at a time, and will also be imposed on any given area up to twice per day. So, with that statement, any given area could experience brownouts for up to 8 hours per day! And, that is only for scheduled brownouts! If there is some kind of emergency – bad weather, transformer problems, power plant failure, or whatever – there could be more brownouts on top of the scheduled brownout periods. For us in Davao, there is no way that the Bajada plant can even begin to cope with that kind of schedule of brownouts, and we will certainly be in the dark for hours at a time here. For the rest of the country, they will have to endure the full grunt of such a large brownout schedule.
Is this any way to run a country? The Philippines needs to do something about getting more power generation online. Look into solar, wind and other new green power sources. I’m no environmentalist, but these technologies, particularly solar, are very applicable for the Philippines! They should be employed. Other means of electricity generation should be expanded as well, and soon.
Not only do brownouts make for hot, dark and uncomfortable days for the residents, but can you imagine how businesses can cope with this? If the businesses have to shut down, even for part of the day, they don’t need as many workers, and that means that people become unemployed. So, no matter how you look at it, the average guy on the streets is hurt when the country can’t provide enough electricity to keep the lights on.
I hope that the Philippines can get through this period of increased brownouts without too major an issue from the lack of power. But, the good side of this power crisis is that it might open up some eyes and get some new methods of providing power up and running in the short term. It is badly needed.