Redouble Efforts to Address Doubled Threats

A recent study revealed that the number of intense floods and storms could double within 13 years due to rising carbon dioxide worldwide, threatening the environment and the world’s socio-economic progress. In particular, the results showed that floods and storms are likely to increase by nine percent for every one percent rise in the carbon dioxide level.

The research, entitled “Impacts of Carbon Dioxide Emissions on Global Intense Hydrometeorological Disasters” used climate data from 155 countries, collected over 46 years from 1970 to 2016. The study concluded that the continuous increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide in the last 40 years was significantly correlated with the rise of extreme disasters.

The research also stressed that the Philippines could face more devastating natural disasters, particularly storms and typhoons. This is because the country faced roughly nine extreme hydrometeorogical disasters yearly, significantly higher when compared to the single disaster per year of other countries.

One of the authors of the study, Vinod Thomas, as quoted in an article in The Inquirer, warned that “One more extreme event in the Philippines, for example, one more Supertyphoon ‘Yolanda’, Typhoon ‘Pablo’ or Tropical Storm ‘Ondoy’ (Ketsana), would strain the country’s ability to cope.” The strain on the country’s infrastructure can be severe. We need to re-think on our resiliency strategies given this inevitable fact.

The authors concluded that the world needs more investments in disaster risk reduction and mitigation and the Philippines has to redouble its efforts in climate change adaptation. “But all the adaptation in the world will not be enough if we do not mitigate…The Philippines has to cut back on the use of coal and fossil fuels, and go all out for wind and solar power.”

This recently released study isn’t the first to call for more action on climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. We have all been at the receiving end of warnings telling us to limit carbon dioxide emissions by shifting to cleaner power or we’ll all suffer the wrath of natural disasters.

For example, David Eckstein, a Germanwatch policy advisor on climate finance and investments, has previously warned that “Countries like Haiti, Philippines, and Pakistan are repeatedly hit by extreme weather events and have no time to fully recover. That underlines the importance of reliable financial support mechanisms for poor countries like these not only in climate change adaptation but also for dealing with climate-induced loss and damage.” 

typhoon c:o reuters

Countries like the Philippines are repeatedly hit by extreme weather events and have no time to fully recover says David Eckstein, a Germanwatch policy advisor on climate finance and investments. Photo c/o Reuters

Yet, despite these dire warnings, coal remains the king of our local power mix. In 2018, coal made up 52.05 of our energy mix. On the other hand, renewable energy only contributed less than a fourth at 22.7 percent. This figure isn’t likely to improve since 80 percent of the committed energy projects are still coal power plants as a Greenpeace noted in a report. Naysayers will point out that any contribution in RE from the Philippines will amount to nothing. I think that view is very shortsighted. The sooner that we, as a country, learn the ways of sustainable energy, the better it is for our children and their children.

Our country needs to do its share in limiting the world’s carbon dioxide level. The Philippines is one of the countries that suffer the most from extreme weather events. Thus, we need to rely more on renewable power than coal. 

Paving the way for renewables to flourish in our country requires additional infrastructure, particularly, smart grids and distributed energy resource. Let us remember, that these two are key technologies in renewable energy development. 

It is also imperative for us to beef up on our energy resilience With all the warnings that the Philippines is one of the countries that suffer and will suffer most from extreme weather events. We need to put our money in putting up distributed generation systems and smart grids while we work harder on climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

And we can make this shift if we also invest in smart grid and distributed energy. These two are key technologies in renewable energy development. 

The smart grid offers an electric power system capable of integrating the actions of all users from the power generators to users. This means integrations of higher levels of renewable energy is possible with smart grids, unlike the rigid and inflexible grids. Distributed Energy Resources or DERs, on the other hand, allow are small-scaled power generation or storage technologies that offer an alternative to the traditional electric power system. It allows for power generation near where electricity will be used. 

Plus, smart grids and DERs help in making our country more resilient to the impact of natural disasters. Let’s remember that power loss is rampant after we get hit by typhoons given our centralized energy system requires long power lines to deliver electricity. Weather disturbances often compromise power lines simultaneously, leaving thousands of countrymen without electricity. Thus, having smart grids and DERs will help decentralize power production where only a few will suffer power loss after disaster strikes.

As we rally for a greater share of renewable power in our energy mix, we should also invest more in smart grids and distributed energy. Replacing coal with renewable power while slowly moving away from the traditional way of transmission and distribution is key to fighting climate change and increasing our energy resilience.

References:

PH faces disasters ‘others haven’t seen’

Smart Grids and Distributed Energy for Disaster Resilience

Typhoon Ursula hit during Christmas time and left several provinces devastated. Its impact includes damaged power supply structures, leaving many many Filipinos without electricity for weeks.

In Aklan, power yet has to be restored three weeks after Ursula made its landfall. According to the Aklan Electric Cooperative or Akelco, the firm is targeting normalization of power supply in some parts of the province by January 25, almost a month since Ursula’s arrival.

Unfortunately, despite round-the-clock efforts to restore electricity, only 60 percent of 381 villages’ power supply has been restored. Power restoration is a massive undertaking in the province given Ursula’s destruction. There were 1144 electric posts either damaged or destroyed. “Several of our primary and backbone lines were destroyed or damaged, that is why full restoration is taking time,” an Akelco engineer was quoted in a news report.

Naturally, being without electricity is hurting the businesses in the province. According to the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) the micro, small and medium enterprises are the ones suffering most from the lack of electricity in the areas as generator sets needed to power their businesses cost a lot of money to operate.

ursula

Electric posts felled by Typhoon Ursula in Capiz. Photo c/o inquirer.net

Similarly, electric cooperatives in other parts of Visayas are also begging consumers for patience as restoration of power takes time. An executive from Samar II Electric Cooperative is appealing to consumers for more patience and understanding. The cooperative is being criticized for its inability of the cooperative to bring back electricity. The linesmen have been at the receiving end of harsh comments, too, prompting the executive to explain that the cooperative has to also look out for the safety of linemen as well.

“These are stories that sometimes never made it in the news. We don’t want to make grandstanding, what we want is for people to know how our linemen risk their lives just to get the power back to your respective houses and properties.” 

Unfortunately, we are a country that is and will be repeatedly hit by extreme weather events. The Philippines will always experience the wrath of natural disasters. This means that Filipinos will have to endure the effects of natural calamities like being without power. If we can recall, it took almost six months for power to be restored after Super Typhoon Yolanda devastated the Visayas region in 2013. It was reported that six linemen died in the restoration process.

For the power sector, this means investing in infrastructures such as distributed generation and smart grids. 

The traditional model of power supply and distribution is proving to be detrimental and even deadly for us Filipinos. Let us keep in mind that central power production means that energy has to be carried via power lines spanning long distances. This means any damage to a single line leaves thousands of homes without power.

In extreme weather disturbances like typhoons, dozens of power lines are compromised simultaneously. The transmission company and distributors then work double-time to determine which lines are affected and which broken ones should be fixed first. Only then can the crews and linemen start the physical side or power restoration.

This is where smart grids and distributed energy come in. Since power is produced in many places, only a handful will be affected if the facilities of a power producer are badly damaged. Even then, those being supplied by the affected power producer may not even experience a power loss. Thanks to the smart grid, electricity can be sourced from another generation node so those affected by the compromised line or power generator can be supplied by another generator.

This is the advantage of moving away from the traditional way of power transmission and generation. Distributed energy along with smart grids can make an area extremely resilient from the wrath of natural calamities.

The traditional model of central production, transmission and generation are slowly being replaced by distributed energy and smart grids. And rightly so, as explained by Josiah Nelson, Chairman, and CEO at Trolysis, a renewable energy company producing on-site, on-demand hydrogen power from aluminum and water.

“Not many people realize this, but in the majority of the country, if there’s a compromised line or a power outage, the power company has no way of knowing until customers pick up the phone and tell the utility that they’ve lost power. This is a horribly backwards way of detecting outages and is a perfect example of the decades-old technology our grid is built on.”

Aside from smart grids and distributed energy, our government should also consider underground conduits that can carry power and even telecommunication cables. Naturally, underground conduits are more unlikely to be damaged during typhoons.

We cannot change our geographical location, nor can we prevent typhoons or other natural disasters from happening. Neither can we change the fact that power restoration with our existing facilities is a dangerous task. What we can do is increase the country’s resilience against natural disasters. This means shifting away from decades-old technology and making way for new ones. Doing so requires acknowledgment of our need for such, proper regulation and more investments.

(Again) It All Boils Down to Appreciating Portfolio Theory in Energy Planning

A new study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) foresees a record decline in coal-fired power in 2019.

The study entitled “Global Coal Power Set for Record Fall in 2019,” says that the decline of thermal power coal is likely in major markets such as the United States, China, European Union, and Japan. The slowdown in the US is a record one as coal-fire use in electricity generation is likely to fall by 13 percent. Coal power decline in the EU posted a staggering 23 percent year-on-year in the calendar year to September 2019. 

It also notes that Southeast Asia is unable to absorb the dramatic decline of coal in these markets. “At just 4.6% of the world’s total coal-fired power generation in 2019, the Southeast Asian region is not big enough to compensate for the dramatic cuts in thermal coal use in the U.S, the European Union and South Korea, and the ongoing slow decline in Japan,” explained Tim Buckley, co-author of the report and director of energy finance studies at IEEFA.

The report also stresses that around the world, investments are moving away from coal due to fear of rising stranded asset risks. It also doesn’t help the coal sector that renewables are seeing double-digit deflation annually says the report. Buckley says it is clear that we will see a steady decline in thermal coal in the coming year. “The transition away from coal is happening faster than forecasters can keep up with.”

In the Philippines, it seems like there is no slowdown in coal power use. On the contrary, coal dominates and continues to dominate the country’s energy mix. A Greenpeace recent report says that coal remains our primary energy source with a 52.05 percent contribution. On the other hand, renewable energy sources share was less than half of coal at 22.27 percent as of December 2018.

The Greenpeace study also says that in terms of proposed committed projects, coal remains the king with 80 percent shareholding in total installed capacity. The environmental group says that coal power’s share in the power mix will increase to three-fourth if all these proposed projects were to be approved. 

“We are already in a state or era of dirty energy because the majority of our power plants come from coal and there are a lot of proposed coal power plants,” Khevin Yu, Greenpeace Philippine campaigner noted.

Greenpeace also analyzed the commitments and energy portfolio of five power companies. These five firms’ portfolio when combined accounts for more than 50 percent of the present existing and proposed power projects in the country. The report pointed out that the proposed power projects of four out of five firms still have coal as their preferred energy source.

In terms of their priority, companies are focused on coal energy development. “This shows that these companies will lead us to a path that our energy system will become coal-dependent,” Yu said.

Greenpeace has recommended placing a moratorium on coal plants the soonest possible time so clean energy can flourish. The suggestion isn’t new as the Energy Secretary had already been asked in congress if he favors such move. To which the secretary replied that a moratorium would be a disservice to the Filipino people.

coal jan

Coal power is likely to contribute 75% in PH energy mix says Greenpeace. Photo c/o Optimusenergy.com.au

Stepping the brakes on the construction of coal-fired plants, and ultimately, the dominance of coal in our power mix is not a disservice to the Filipino people. On the contrary, building more coal-plants places Filipinos at a disadvantage as I have discussed before. We have to remember that coal plants are locked into long-term Power Sales Agreements or PSAs, which can run up to 25 years. This means that consumers’ choices are taken away from them in the long run, when in fact, what we should be working on allowing consumers to choose their preferred sources of power.

We can trace coal’s dominance in our energy mix to our energy planners’ skewed concept of the least cost. Again, our energy planners are using the ‘least cost method’ in terms of building costs without looking at the risks, namely fluctuation in foreign exchange rates and world prices of coal.

Perhaps our energy planners should be given a crash course on portfolio theory, developed by Harry Markowitz, a Nobel Prize winner. His theory posits that risks can be minimized at any level of expected return if the investor mixes assets in a portfolio, combining high and low or zero- risk assets. Putting this theory into energy planning, this means that we should diversify our energy sources portfolio.

Greenpeace says at the rate we are going, we are likely to end up with a 75 percent coal share in our power mix. This runs counter to what financial experts advise investors of diversifying one’s portfolio. Having three-fourths of our power come from coal means we are making our consumers more vulnerable to unpredictable global coal prices and fluctuation in foreign exchanges.

Yes, we can push for a moratorium on building coal plants. But unless our energy planners understand portfolio theory for energy planning, then we can expect them to always push for coal as they look at the least cost. We all should be very scared now if Greenpeace’s prediction that coal will contribute 75 percent and brace ourselves for possibly higher power rates in the future if this forecast comes true.

Of course, we need to reduce coal in power use significantly as we aim to meet our commitment of 70 percent emission reductions below business-as-usual-levels. We, along with other nations need to help save the environment. But another compelling reason to move away from coal is to provide consumers with more choices and reduce the risk of having them pay for more expensive electricity in the future. May our energy planners realize that their misplaced appreciation of the least cost method is costing Filipino consumers more.

References:

IEEFA update: Global coal power set for record fall in 2019

https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/11/22/1970979/greenpeace-companies-coal-expansion-will-block-philippines-transition-low-carbon-future

A New Hope

Nope, this isn’t a post about Star Wars. This instead is my Wishlist  for the Philippine Energy Sector as we start a new year.

First, I hope and pray that our government takes a closer look at the long-term power needs. Our officials should work hard on ensuring the following:

Energy security- Energy security can be achieved by developing indigenous and sustainable energy. Unfortunately, the Philippines continues its reliance on traditional sources of power. For 2018, coal accounted for more than half our power source. We are also no longer the second largest producer of geothermal energy as our neighbor, Indonesia is already producing more.

Resiliency-  Many of our countrymen are starting 2020 without electricity after Typhoon Ursula devastated their areas. It’s a sad thought that families affected by the typhoon are left in darkness. Hopefully, this year, our government will push for the development of microgrids for the country’s energy resilience. Microgrids, after all, will allow any devastated area to recover quickly as power restoration becomes easier.

Introduction of reforms in the power supply contracting- Time and time again, players in the energy sector complain of the tedious process in power supply contracting. Hopefully, the process can be simplified soon. More importantly, our government officials also require fixed-price contracts in our energy portfolio.

As I have been saying, “floating” PSAs where foreign exchange and global price fluctuation are passed on to consumers should slowly be phased out. Introducing fixed-price contracts peg the price consumers have to pay at a fixed rate for a number of years, resulting in more savings for the Filipinos

Second, the power distribution industry should now work to offer more choices at the customer level. Our power distributors must appreciate the convergence of Information and Communication Technology and the power sector given that around the world, Information Technology is changing the energy sector.

Power distributors should then work on introducing more smart grids in their networks. Smart girds empower consumers by providing them with information that can, among others save money, and purchase electricity directly from retail suppliers.

Along with the development of smart grids, we should also encourage embedded generation such as rooftop solar power along with its use in microgrids.

Third, may our government start planning for resiliency programs seriously. We have to keep in mind that the Philippines will always be at risk of being hit by devastating natural disasters like earthquakes and typhoons. Let’s just look at the recent typhoons, Tisoy and Ursula that affected some provinces badly.

It is time for our government through the Local Government Units (LGUs) with the help of Congress to invest in underground conduits capable of carrying power and telecommunication cables. Investing in such will ensure both internet and power supply despite catastrophic events.

The government can increase its investments on research and development to address power resiliency issues and the use of big data and technology in increasing resiliency. Perhaps the UP Resiliency Institute can help in this endeavour.

Every new year brings new hope. And the start of 2020 is no different. May both the public and private sectors along with the rest of Filipinos work together in making the energy sector a better one. A sector that safeguards the welfare and provides more choices to Filipino consumers.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Hope Over Surrender

Filipinos have been at the receiving end of gloomy warning about our environment these past few weeks.

For one, the Global Climate Risk Index released the first week of December says that the Philippines is the second most affected country in 2018 when we talk of weather-related losses. Last year, our country was hit by Typhoon Mangkhut, the powerful typhoon that devastated Northern Luzon in September, which caused deadly landslides. The report measured the damage done by floods, storms, and heatwaves to humans and economies.

The study published by Bonn-based, German Watch also noted that the Philippines was one of the countries most affected by extraordinary catastrophes in the last two decades. We were ranked fourth in the list of long-term climate impacted countries from 1999 to 2018. We join Myanmar, Haiti, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Puerto Rico in this list.

It won’t also be surprising if the Philippines makes it to the list next year. Just a few weeks ago, Typhoon Tisoy, the strongest typhoon that hit the country this year, slammed the Bicol region with its strong winds and  heavy rains. Typhoon Tisoy forced tens of thousands in evacuation centers and  plunged the Bicol region in  darkness. The local government in Bicol provinces had so much difficulty restoring power in their areas. To date, some areas in Bicol are still without power.

Our country always experiences the wrath of these natural disasters. And in the words of  David Eckstein, Germanwatch policy advisor on climate finance and investments “Countries like Haiti, Philippines and Pakistan are repeatedly hit by extreme weather events and have no time to fully recover. That underlines the importance of reliable financial support mechanisms for poor countries like these not only in climate change adaptation but also for dealing with climate-induced loss and damage.” 

Similarly, a study released by the Climate Central said that major cities in the Philippines are likely to be submerged due to intense coastal flooding worldwide by 2050, all thanks to climate change.

This study warned that the rising seas could erase some of the world’s coastal cities because of higher tides. Unfortunately, Asian countries such as the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, and China in danger of rising sea levels.

The study says cities in Metro Manila including, Navotas, Manila, Malabon, and Pasay are likely to be impacted by coastal flooding. Likewise, Bulacan could also be underwater by the year 2050 while areas in the Visayas such as Aklan, Kalibo and Roxas cities could possibly be submerged due to coastal flooding.

These are somber predictions to end our year. And sadly, there’s no denying the effects of climate change in the country. So, are we just to despair at these gloomy conclusions of our experts?

Fortunately, there’s something we can do to help these from happening, or at least be prepared for these potential disasters. As a nation we need to start being serious about resiliency plans. These plans should span from infrastructure to training of all citizens and to mobilization plans. At the UP Vanguard Inc., where I am National Commander, we are now developing plans to address this issue of resiliency from a strategic and tactical perspectives.

And of course, we can do our share in stopping the continuous rise of greenhouse gas emissions. Experts after experts have been saying that a shift to cleaner energy is one of the best ways to help save the Earth’s destruction by climate change. For the Philippines, this means, putting an end to coal’s dominance in our power mix.

Yes, we can say that it may seem like an impossible task to make this shift to cleaner energy. Yes, we can say that our shift to renewable energy may not mean much from a global perspective. Yes, one can argue that calls for renewable energy have fallen to deaf ears in this country as energy planners and government alike are allowing the prevalence of traditional fossil fuel power in our country despite laws meant to make RE flourish in our country.

Looking at the numbers, we can say that coal is likely to remain, king since as of 2018. Coal accounted for 52.05 percent of our energy source. The figure is more than half of renewable energy’s share of 22.27% for the same period.

So, are we to remain disheartened and give up the fight for renewable energy’s dominance in the Philippines’ power sector?

I dare say no, and I will borrow the words of U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres in the opening of the Climate Summit in Spain a few weeks ago where he said the world must choose hope over surrender in the battle against climate change.

So, I say let us not abandon our quest in helping our government and energy planners realize the value and potential of renewable energy in the country. Not only for our environment but also for energy security and price stability. 

Rather than surrender, we must continue to educate and advocate for a swifter transition to renewable power in the Philippines. Let us continue to remind our leaders of the need to pave the way for distributed energy as the world moves away from the traditional distribution of energy, so more Filipinos can enjoy the benefits of RE. Let us continue working on providing consumers with more choices of their preferred sources of power including renewable energy.

In the end, it may seem like a Herculean task to develop and let renewables flourish in our country. But in the words of the UN secretary “let us choose to hope and work hard towards our goals rather than surrender.”  

I will also pose the same question the UN Secretary-General asked in his opening speech “Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sand, that fiddled while the planet burned?” And I will go further by asking “Do we want to be remembered as the generation that walked away when we could have made the lives of Filipinos better by giving them affordable and stable electricity?”

Merry Christmas everyone!

When Private Sector Efforts Aren’t Enough

Recently, tech giant, Amazon announced three renewable energy projects totaling 265 megawatts (MW) that would provide power to its data centers. The tech giant said these new projects are all part of Amazon’s efforts to power 100% of its operations via renewable energy.

The three projects consist of a wind farm with a maximum capacity of 50 MW in Scotland, and two solar projects with 215 MW capacity in North Carolina and Virginia. All three projects are expected to start generating power by 2021.

Amazon’s new renewable energy is all part of the company’s commitment to helping the environment. “We are committed to minimizing our carbon emissions and reaching 80% renewable energy use across the company by 2024,” Amazon’s Director of Sustainability Kara Hurst said.

Amazon is not the lone global brand to make headlines recently for its commitment to renewable energy. Likewise, The Estée Lauder Group announced that it has already reached 100% in renewable power in the United States and Canada ahead of its target date. The brand also announced that it has signed a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA) for wind energy. This makes the Estée Lauder Companies Inc the first prestige beauty firm to execute a VPPA.

Under the signed VPPA, the beauty company will purchase power 22 MW from the Ponderosa wind farm in Beaver County, Oklahoma owned by NextEra Energy Resource. The company says this new development is a great addition to its renewable portfolio “We’re so pleased to meet our 2020 RE100 commitment for North America early. Projects like the Ponderosa wind farm and others in our Net Zero portfolio are all significant achievements toward our commitments to address climate change,” said Nancy Mahon, Senior Vice President, Global Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability of The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.

Corporate renewable energy procurement has been aggressive in the last few years as private firms do their best to honor their commitments to zero emissions.

In 2018, corporate renewable energy deals were on a roll as clean energy contracts entered into by corporations more than doubled from 2017. There was a total of 13.4 gigawatts signed by 121 corporations across 21 nations last year.

Corporate renewable energy deals are impressive but are they enough to meet the world’s commitment of net-zero carbon by 2050?

The answer is no, since gas, oil and coal still dominate the energy mix according to Nick Butler, chairman of The Policy Institute at King’s College London and energy commentator for Financial Times. He stressed that in 2018, only $300 billion out to $1.8 trillion in investments in the energy sector went to renewables. The rest of the money went into fossil fuels, particularly gas and oil.

Butler says the established hydrocarbons for energy remain resilient since renewables only supply five percent of the global power demand. Within 10 years, renewable power is only likely to contribute 12 percent to global energy. Coal will continue to dominate in the next few decades.

This is not to say that renewables will never be the primary source of energy. Butler points out that renewables could dominate the world’s power mix but it will take more than 20 years.

The chairman says that the key to a faster energy transition is more involvement from the public sector. So far, return on investments for renewable energy is still far from the returns in oil and gas projects.

Butler proposes the adoption of a mixed economy model where the state will provide long-term capital to balance the low rate of with the value that renewable power brings to the public. He cites the cases of BP, and Equinor, formerly known as Statoil. The latter was put up by the Norwegian government as the state’s oil company and later became a major player in the gas market and the world’s largest oil and gas offshore operator. The company has rebranded into Equinor and now actively investing in solar energy and offshore wind.

For the Philippines, this will require a major shift in its energy policy.  The EPIRA clearly steered the Philippine power sector to more private investments rather than the government. Its intention was to make the power sector “market driven.”  Unfortunately the Philippine energy market is not efficient and still too young to be a reliable indicator of market prices.  Therefore relying on this current market structure will not bring in new renewable energy projects in the scale and speed at which we need to put in place in the country.

There are ways to make the shift possible even under the current EPIRA regime.  The Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) regulation is one way to go albeit its contribution will be very small. The issuance of a tariff policy requiring more stable power rates will help bring this surge in renewable energy investments.  There are other ways.  However, the government must first realize the need for more RE investments.  Otherwise, all its policies and directives will be palliative solutions to what is going to be a major challenge in the country’s energy security situation.

https://www.theclimategroup.org/news/est-e-lauder-companies-inc-achieves-100-renewable-electricity-us-and-canada-ahead-schedule-and

https://cleantechnica.com/2019/11/13/corporate-green-energy-adoption-flourishes/

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/24/amazon-announces-three-new-renewable-energy-projects.html

 

Getting Ready for IoT

The Speedtest Global Index ranked the Philippines 103rd out of 139 surveyed countries in terms of mobile internet speed. Our average internet mobile download speed is 15.06 megabits per seconds (Mbps), which is significantly lower than the global average of 26.12 Mbps Our average is even slower than war-torn Syria which has 19.48 Mbps and Zimbabwe’s 15.2 Mbps

For fixed-line internet, our country was again one of the slowest placing 101 out of 179 countries in the study. While the global average is 57.91, ours was much slower at 19.51. That’s not even half of the speed of the global average.

Just last September, 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero filed a bill in Congress seeking to establish and create a comprehensive broadband control and management framework.

HB 185 or the National Broadband Development Act aims to create more efficient Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and broadband services in the country. The bill seeks to create an integrated policy environment that would lead to a broad market-led development of the ICT enabled services. The bill aims to expand and establish ICT infrastructure to enable the continuity of ICT-broadband based services that can help support the government’s economic objectives.

In the bill’s explanatory note, Rep. Romero says he hopes ” to ensure universal access to quality services, promote the development and widespread use of emerging new ICT technologies, and to ensure the availability and accessibility of services in all areas.”

Of course, it’s embarrassing that the Philippines has one of the slowest internet speeds in the world. We need a stable and reliable internet connection not only because we need to stream in high definition or so that we can enjoy internet-based games.

No, we need a faster and reliable internet connection for economic development. We need this reliable internet so our consumers can have better energy choices and control their consumption. The power sector, after all, is in the cusp if not already in a massive transformation phase with the emergence of renewable energy and storage technologies. Plus, of course, there’s the Internet of Things or IoT.

IoT, in its simplest explanation, is about the connectivity of one device with an on and off switch to the internet or a massive network of connected things. This means that “anything that can be connected, will be connected.”

And as the internet is widely becoming more available, there are more devices produced with Wifi capabilities and built-in sensors. Smartphone penetration is also high as more phone makers are making them affordable. In the energy sector, IoT is revolutionizing every aspect of the power industry including generation, transmission, and distribution.

Just how is IoT changing the energy industry?

For starters, sensors allow for the remote maintenance of the generation, transmission and distribution equipment. There’s the digital twin technology that creates an advanced digital model of an existing piece of equipment. When connected to the physical equipment the digital twin technology can collect data about the equipment’s performance remotely. This also means that such technology will allow virtual troubleshooting and support even in remote areas. Imagine, being able to monitor the performance of our energy equipment in remote and hard to reach areas by simply clicking on mobile phones.

IoT also allows for a more distributed grid. With the growth of home solar panels, both homeowners and businesses are now generating their own power. And generating your own power is not limited to solar technology as there are also some building their small wind turbines.

The smart grid powered by IoT is indeed enabling the distributed energy transformation. And with distributed energy, grid operators can handle the demand changes on their grids. Smart grids let grid operators detect and react to the supply and demand of power remotely. This is all thanks to the fact that they can obtain information in real-time without having to rely on their on-site equipment.

Speaking of grid management, IoT also helps in better grid management as sensors placed in distribution lines and substation generates real-time power consumption data, which helps grid managers make decisions about a variety of things like network configuration, voltage control, and load switching.

IoT

IoT gives empowers consumers. Photo c/o http://www.electricalindia.com

Indeed, there are many benefits that IoT brings in the world of power. But one of the best things about this technology is that it gives more options. Hence, more power at the hands of the consumers.

Running low on budget and need to cut down on household expenses? IoT can help you. This is because of smart devices and smart meters that help customers make informed choices on their power usage.  Imagine having smart devices that can measure the power consumption of each device and appliances that can be installed in homes. Consumers can then use such information to figure out which are power-hungry appliances and optimize their use to save on power costs. 

Clearly, internet connection is changing the way we do things including in the energy sector. As such, our government should find ways to make reliable internet affordable and accessible. Sustainable and affordable power in the Philippines is achievable if we do invest in our ICTs as well.

And its not just about improving internet connectivity in the country. As we move towards a more distributed and more connected electricity system, our Department of ICT and local energy players should start investing time, effort and resources in Critical Information (CIP) standards. CIP is what helps keeps safe smart grids from attacks. It sets out the minimum security requirements for power assets that are critical to a country’s bulk electric system. Naturally, the growth of internet-connected sensors and control systems come with some vulnerabilities.

In the United States, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is on the lookout for vendors that will help in developing solutions to secure the IoT. Our regulations and plans in the future must also figure in cyber protection.

The Department of ICT (DICT) should also go beyond just common towers. It should tap the country’s power transmission and distribution towers and poles for a common fiber optic policy. Today, each telco enters into a Pole Sharing Agreement with power utilities. So we can see not only one fiber optic in our poles, but three or even more. Not only does this make our telco or cable tv services expensive, it also messes up the wires and poles of the utility.

Our government should be rolling out their sleeves and getting ready for work as the world moves towards greater use of ICTs and broadband services. Let’s go beyond simply looking at internet speeds and accessibility and figure out how cutting edge technologies are transforming various sectors including the power sector. We are now moving away from the traditional models of power distribution, generation, and transmission and we need stable internet, increased information security and appropriate regulations so that we can enjoy the benefits of IoT.

References:

https://www.philstar.com/business/2019/09/08/1949856/bill-seeks-faster-internet-connection-philippines

https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/emily-folk/how-iot-is-transforming-the-energy-industry-20190418

https://www.utilitydive.com/news/security-and-distributed-resources-an-attacker-will-eventually-get-in-s/565966/