Unable to accept brownouts as ‘part of an average day’

Posted by watchmen
August 2, 2017
Posted in OPINION

This past weekend, was dealt a heavy reminder of one of the primary problems with the country – in particular, one that has gone on for so long, local residents look past it and those in charge are undisturbed knowing it has just become a part of the culture – disgraceful electrical service.
In the span of an hour and a half, the power went out three times. Can only imagine what that must have done to the various appliances around that house that needed to be plugged and unplugged as electricity fluctuated through the afternoon.
Additionally, that time was supposed to be spent writing the next column but, unfortunately, with the inability to utilize, what is supposed to be a basic necessity, that never happened. At least, in these cases, there is always the possibility to replace a column with something else, but what if it were an assignment for school or another job? These kinds of inconveniences that can be avoided have gone on for decades and the Central Negros Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Ceneco) and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) seem all too content as long as consumer-members are paying their bills.
Last year, penned a column as part of a series on things one living in a developed country should not take for granted. In it, it was discussed the difference between Ceneco and the Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G), the local energy provider in New Jersey.
The sheer comparison on the number of brownout and blackouts between the two is jarring, where in New Jersey, interruptions in electricity were solely due to extraordinary events. Once was in 2003, stemming from the massive blackout that struck several states, along with the Canadian province of Ontario, caused by a malfunction by the FirstEnergy Corporation in Ohio; the second time was in 2012, during Hurricane Sandy, also known as Superstorm Sandy.
In Bacolod City, it’s several times a week – last Sunday, three times between 2:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. – and after Ceneco announced another rate hike.
The previous column also noted, Ceneco schedules blackouts for “maintenance,” yet, nearly 20 years living in the United States, PSE&G never had to shut off service in order to perform maintenance. Either the American company never did any maintenance (which, if true, would seem to be an effective strategy since brownouts and blackouts were beyond rare) or the local cooperative is working with such an archaic system (or are massively ill-equipped) that electricity still needs to be shut down in order for laborers to perform their assigned tasks.
Just yesterday, it was reported NGCP Western Visayas Information Officer Michelle Vicera claimed the supply of electricity in the Visayas is “abundant.” Given the continuing frequency of brownouts and blackouts, if there truly is an “abundant” electricity supply, then there is no hope in seeing the country attain a consistent electric current. Unless, what she is saying is accurate and there is something being manipulated once Ceneco is in control of directing the supply.
Taking a wider glance at the topic, beyond an individual not being able to complete assignments for school or work, inconsistent electricity is a burden to the country as a whole. The fact that many of those in charge seem unwilling to improve the current system, or, conversely, spend massive amounts of money on green energy plants that have yet to prove their worth, as brownouts and blackouts are still frequent as ever, only forecasts more of the same for decades – with locals still shelling out money every month for shoddy service and the government spending money for window-dressing during the campaign season.
In a 2011 piece in Deutsche Welle, Chiponda Chimbelu wrote about the economic situation in Africa and noted how poor infrastructure, particularly the service of commodities like electricity, are creating an impediment for development.
“Power is Africa’s biggest infrastructure weak point, with as many as 30 countries facing regular power outages, according to a 2010 report by the World Bank and France’s development agency,” the article said.
The report cited German Development Cooperation economist Matthias Grossmann, who said, “The majority of countries in sub-Saharan Africa still experience regular power outages, which of course contribute to a low productivity of many firms.”
Beyond being an inconvenience for locals, the reluctance for local power companies to strive for reliable energy is causing an obstruction to the country. As much as local politicians want to publicize their meetings with international firms X, Y, or Z, even if successful, one can only assume it would be short-lived as operating with inconsistent electric is not something investors are really all that interested in.
One can always argue, “They can buy a generator.” Yes, but what does that say about the situation if, in order to maintain a constant electrical current, the purchase of an expensive generator is a necessity?
Dependable electricity is what is essential, not a generator.
According to a 2009 piece by Nathanial Gronewold in Scientific American, “An estimated 79 percent of the people in the Third World – the 50 poorest nations – have no access to electricity, despite decades of international development work.”
He noted, based on reports by United Nations officials, access to modern fuels as a principle source of energy “is a prerequisite for raising billions out of poverty.”
Just as it was pointed out in the Chimbelu piece, access to energy would be a huge boost to economic development – yet, still, local government officials and cooperative executives look the other way and pretend the status quo is good enough.
Expanding on that point, when it comes to countries controlled by a massive central government, like the Philippines, those elected to office and pander to the masses with government handouts also get to keep their jobs the more people remain poor and are dependent on the government – perhaps, the end goal of keeping reliable electricity out of reach.
Daniel J. Mitchell wrote an article regarding the failure of centralized governments in a 2015 post on Townhall.com.
“The welfare state is capable of redistributing lots of money, but also does a terrible job of promoting self-sufficiency,” he wrote.
“When government subsidizes multi-generational poverty,” Mitchell pointed out, “Millions of people are bribed to be out of the labor force.”
It was noted in the prior column, Ceneco lays out goals on their website about attaining “international standards;” clearly, they’re still lagging, but it is unclear if they truly are working towards their goals or just settling into complacency./WDJ

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