Published April 15, 2017, 10:00 PM By Myrna M. Velasco
The strike of natural calamities had also been serving as “testing ground” on the resiliency of energy facilities, and through the years, the sector’s winners and losers have been manifesting.
Power utility giant Manila Electric Company (Meralco), for its part, has noted some improvements on its disaster-response, made evident anew in last week’s stream of earthquakes that plagued Batangas province – one of its service areas which also have spiraling effect all throughout its franchise domain that stretches up to Metro Manila.
The utility firm said it sustained “no damage” at its facilities and networks and despite the enforcement of automatic load dropping (ALD) or rolling brownouts following the quakes’ jolt, electricity service had been restored with dispatch at its service areas.
Meralco Assistant Vice President Joe Zaldarriaga said its network’s load had dropped by roughly 900 megawatts,” and that affected around 1.2 million of its customers.
But swift restoration of service was made possible, he emphasized, “as there was no reported damage as far as the Meralco facilities are concerned.”
With the recurrence of “yellow alert” condition in Luzon grid or the circumstance where reserves in the system are insufficient due to the number of power generating plants affected, the company also has instantaneous response on the required mobilization of the interruptible load program (ILP) participants so they can de-load from the grid at the quickest interval.
On this week’s extreme tightening of supply, Zaldarriaga said “we have currently on standby around 130 megawatts of ILP capability,” that may be activated if the system requires them so.
Disasters are not the only “extraordinary events” that Meralco has been preparing for, but it wants to integrate innovation and digitalization in its chain of services and “customer feedback mechanism” so it can further improve its resource offers to end-users.
The company is discerning enough that competition will continually disrupt traditional business models, thus, it is now placing higher bets on exercising “superiority” not just on affordable power rates but more on innovative and improved services to customers.
No less than Meralco Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan has inferred that this is the business case that has been keeping the utility firm’s executives awake at night – stepping up the degree of competition and service quality on both the information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) domains of power distribution.
“Meralco fully recognizes the fast-transforming customer, as well as the evolving business and industry landscape in an increasingly demanding and competitive global economy,” he stressed.
Pangilinan thus noted that such has been prompting the company “to invest heavily in its power distribution and customer-facing facilities, on innovation and digital technology.”
In Meralco’s century-stretch history, it judiciously served customers with traditionally accepted business practices, but with the integration of IT already advancing into power markets, utilities have also been embracing transformative changes in their service offers and customer engagements.
Just recently, the utility firm unveiled four customer-centric services in the suite of business approaches that it wants to offer to subscribers en route to its R40-billion long-term smart grid journey.
These digital transformation marketing tools and offers will be the: “I Join” that shall enable customers to start and track their applications online; “I Pay” which digitizes the utility firm’s billing system and enhances capacity of online payments; “I Ask” that unlocks self-service knowledge database for customers and will also allow them to chat directly with a live agent; and “I Need Repair” that sets competence for Meralco to inform its customers on power outages and restoration via short messaging system, electronic mails or push messages.
Meralco Senior Vice President Alfredo S. Panlilio indicated that these technologies will “fundamentally change the way Meralco interacts with its customers.”
He added “we will ensure that we are able to meet our changing customer needs by opening new digital channels, providing more information and insights and offering more innovative products and services.”
The “disruptive” business models being introduced by Meralco are eventually seen extending into “smart homes” – with the aid of feasible policy and regulatory frameworks.