No such thing as ‘progress’ while electricity remains undependable

Posted by watchmen
September 18, 2017
Posted in OPINION

Politicians both on the national and local scale love to discuss “progress” and being “progressive” (in the developmental aspect, not the contemporary “left-wing” definition). However, the concept of development and growth is a complete myth when nobody can seem to figure out how to keep the lights on.
It is difficult to see what these elected officials can be so proud of, boasting about one piece of legislation after another (which eventually goes unenforced, turning what is supposed to be a law into window-dressing for their reelection campaign), when a basic essential cannot even be delivered reliably.
Every election cycle, some politician will take to the microphone and claim his or her plans will usher the Philippines into the developed world. They will talk about ending poverty and corruption (both noble causes), yet most will be based on endless government entitlements – one of the most unsustainable forms of assistance.
However, at no time will there be talk about how to improve the development and delivery of energy – a necessity in getting through the average day. The last election cycle, local politicians bragged about the new clean energy plants constructed in the province, along with Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri running an ad about the solar farm in Cadiz City, the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia.
Yet, has it improved service? Are locals no longer waking up on the weekend to homes without electricity? What is the point of throwing billions of pesos into these projects when service continues to remain substandard?
Bryan Walsh wrote a piece for Time Magazine in 2011, where he discussed “energy poverty.”
He opens the piece, primarily geared towards an American audience, with asking readers to imagine life without television, an Mp3 player, or video games – he even mentioned how the ability to read books is something that can only be done during the day. Beyond that, he wrote, “You may lack access to vaccines and modern drugs because the nearest hospital doesn’t have regular power to keep the medicine refrigerated.”
The basic necessities that many take for granted (even in the Philippines, where most seem to think power interruptions are just a “part of life”) are sorely missed when the power goes out; however, those with the power to do something about it, seem all too content (they, likely, are able to afford generators and – as discussed in previous columns – are unable to see outside the bubble they built around themselves).
“Energy poverty is, of course, only a piece of larger economic poverty,” Walsh noted. “It’s one of the best ways out of it, too”
“If you need one more reminder of that fact – and of how radical the difference is between the world’s haves and have-nots – take a look at a satellite photograph of earth at night, with large swathes of the planet radiating light and other stretches cloaked in darkness, an electric map of wealth and poverty,” he explained.
While many politicians would like to pretend the Philippines is on-par with the developed world, primarily because of the flimsy policies they like to portray as groundbreaking legislation, the reality (if they choose to look outside their plush offices) would suggest otherwise.
An article by German conglomerate Siemens appeared in The Atlantic back in 2014. Intended as an advertorial, they also touched upon some of the points made by Walsh, including the idea of looking at a night map of the world to see how well-lit some area are, and the contrasting darkness of other places.
“Where electricity goes, economic development – with its longer life spans, higher paying jobs, and safer communities – goes, too,” they wrote. “Yet much of the world remains in the dark.”
They go on to discuss how access to electricity has expanded rapidly over the past couple decades, however, in many cases, the company wrote, “That newfound access still comes with the frustration of frequent blackouts and brownouts that leave many developing countries with at least 20 hours of power outages each month.”
Even countries like Australia, which has reliable energy sources, along with the necessary infrastructure, are still unable to provide that same efficiency to rural areas.
According to advocacy group NSW (New South Wales) Farmers, energy is still unreliable, which severely impacts their livelihood.
“The majority of regional and remote farm businesses are subject to a suite of power supply problems including momentary (very short) outages, voltage surges, and brownouts,” the group pointed out in a press release. “Some farmers surveyed reported suffering in the order of 100+ outages per year – including momentary outages.”
“In order to manage this unreliability, farmers are forced to install expensive backup diesel generators and change work practices to avoid times of day when reliability is low,” the report added.
NSW Farmers explained, a multitude of sectors, from botany to dairy to poultry, are all impacted when electricity is unreliable.
For example, they noted, “In the absence of expensive backup systems, average potential losses in the poultry industry were estimated at $180,000 (almost P7.4 million) per serious outage.” The group also pointed out, “In the dairy industry, an extended power outage without backup would cost an average farm more than $13,000 (over P530,000) per incident.”
They also mention the cost to equipment as a result of poor power quality and power fluctuations – something many locals in Bacolod City can relate to, with their household appliances subject to the same instabilities.
How do elected officials think their policies have any value when the lack of reliable electricity can come at such a cost? With locals unable to trust their lights, internet, or computers will function on a daily basis, the possibility of seeing real progress seems like a tough row to hoe.
Even when it comes to the renewable energy plants that have sprung up throughout the province over the past couple years (and have yet to show their ability to end the scourge of regular power interruptions), these “innovations” still come with massive costs – expectedly, to be paid for by taxpayers.
Benjamin Zycher wrote a piece for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) last month about the costs associated with renewable energy.
“Wind and solar power are available only when they are available, and thus require substantial backup generation capacity in order to avoid power outages,” he explained. “Such backup power is very expensive – my own estimate of those backup costs is $368 (over P18,000) per megawatt hour.”
Citing the United States Department of Energy, which noted renewable energy plants are predominantly driven by government subsidy, Zycher pointed out, “The plants cannot operate efficiently, their owners cannot cover their costs, and their early retirements are reducing the reliability of the electric power system, an effect that is both costly and unavoidable – and dangerous in terms of the potential for blackouts.”
The costs to both one’s wallet and their overall wealth potential are staked heavily on the necessity of reliable energy. With national politicians unwilling to move on developing better forms of energy production, energy providers and local utility cooperatives contradicting each other on their respective abilities to deliver service, and local officials taking in billions in government funds to set up renewable energy plants that are both unreliable and costly, it all begins to look like the same scenario all over again.
The government continues to play games with its citizens.
Promising the moon and the stars when pandering for votes and, in the end, the average city resident is left with either an unfulfilled promise (that is expected to be forgotten by the next election cycle) or a “solution,” which turns out to be nothing more than a politician presenting nothing more than a superficial token disguised as a resolution./WDJ

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *