Power to the people


Jullie Y. Daza

You may complain and they will explain but the truth is never plain to you. Why our power bills are so high – supposedly second to an expensive city like Tokyo? — is a mystery that will remain unsolved to our little minds and shallow pockets.

The more you try to read how electricity is transmitted from National Grid Corp. of the Philippines and into our homes, the more you want to tear your hair. At least two senators, Raffy Tulfo and Risa Hontiveros, were stunned at one possible explanation: 75 percent of NGCP profits go to investors and 25 percent to “development projects,” whatever they are. In the meantime, and based on Senator Win Gatchalian’s research, 16 of those projects have been delayed even if NGCP has been collecting fees and getting paid for them. Of six projects completed, their output contributes a mere 37.5 percent.

Whether you’re an engineer or an accountant or a plain citizen without a background in electronics or math, you know that your electric bill is many times more than your water bill. (In our small-size household, the water bill is a mere 10 percent of the electric bill in summer. I’m not complaining, Joe Z, I know Meralco is ably run and managed, and if our bills in Metro Manila are high, consider how much more our poor provincial cousins are paying their electric co-ops!).

When I asked a former DENR secretary how cities like New York, Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong could keep their lights ablaze – on skyscrapers, roads, alleys, bridges – throughout the night and into the dawn, he said, “Their electricity is cheap, and it costs more money to turn off the lights and turn them on again.”

That reply reminded me of something I read in a novel by the erudite novelist Colin Dexter, who suggested that the simple act of turning on a light switch — one click! — costs the equivalent of four hours of electricity, for which you will be billed accordingly. Sure, Dexter’s not writing a technical book about fuel and energy, but his view is not uncommon among real-life consumers in the West.
To believe or not? Treat the two foregoing paragraphs as fiction, if it will make you feel better.