Power and water: Adjustments made to remain operational

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    “We will never go back to the old ways.We’ve come this far, doing even complicated things to deal with disruptions. What we can do is use these things we learned for further service improvement”

    In the current situation when people are expected to stay indoors as much as possible, a steady supply of electricity and water is badly needed to make the lockdown more bearable.

    This is all the more true in the case of hospitals and other crucial service sectors to ensure their operations run smoothly in the middle of a pandemic.

    Organizations involved in the supply of electricity and water had to come up with innovations to cope with the challenges brought by the ongoing health emergency.

    Most of them, if not all, also experienced disruptions. They had to resort to digital transformation and organizational adjustments.

    Power

    Joe Zaldarriaga, spokesman of the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), said customers experienced a total net rate reduction of P1.3870 per kilowatt hour (kWh) in 2020, equivalent to a bill reduction of more than P277 for a household consuming 200 kWh for the whole year.

    “With this continued downward trend, Meralco’s rates have been at their lowest levels in three years. With this, we will continue our commitment to provide the most reliable and resilient network to ensure that the entire franchise is enabled for the economic upturn,” Zaldarriaga said.

    He said even in the middle of the pandemic and the effects of strong typhoons that hit the country, Meralco managed to fast-track restoration efforts of those affected in their customer-base while also reaching outside the franchise area to aid restoration, whenever needed.

    But Meralco does not see demand for electricity to rebound this year as conditions are still far from normal.

    “We still expect most households to remain in their premises but looking ahead to the remainder of 2021, in general, the energy sector has been seeing increased economic activity from consumers in recent months, along with the gradual relaxation of travel restrictions,” Zaldarriaga said.

    The Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) which runs the wholesale electricity spot market (WESM) said the most significant changes it implemented involved communication with employees and stakeholders.

    “…IEMOP maximized the use of online collaboration and social media platforms in engaging with our customers. For instance, since the pandemic started, we have been providing regular reports on the market outcomes via our social media accounts,” said Julius Eleazar Bunyi, IEMOP corporate strategy and program management manager.

    Bunyi said during the period, IEMOP also conducted virtual updates for market participants and online WESM training programs. IEMOP also formulated a business continuity plan and policies on alternative work arrangements for employees and remote access.

    Water

    Meanwhile, Maynilad Water Services Inc. said the pandemic brought several changes overnight .

    Kiko Castillo, Maynilad chief information officer, said the company had to install software for over 2,000 employees working from home in just a week as the issuance of contracts and permits became paperless.

    “We did this securely since there are risks of hacking. One of the most important programs we’ve used is VPN (virtual private network) so we can work from our homes securely while being connected to our servers,” Castillo said.

    He said these innovations are not entirely new to the company but utilization and adoption had to be accelerated during the pandemic such that use of virtual billing portals usage increased by more than 12-folds.

    Castillo said the situation also forced Maynilad to “do complicated things over the internet” as they set up remote trouble-shooting of plants. Physical site inspection happens only if actual replacement of equipment is required.

    “We also used digital twins where we create a software replica of the plant so we can test … virtually instead of running to the actual plant and gamble with the risks of potential disruption. That way, when it comes to the actual plant, we will only need minimal tweaks,” he said.

    Castillo said even when the pandemic is over, all the technologies and innovations rolled out by the firm will be used, and even be further improved.

    “We will never go back to the old ways.We’ve come this far, doing even complicated things to deal with disruptions. What we can do is usethese things we learned for further service improvement,” Castillo said.