Ok, so after discussing some of the things you can proactively put into place in order to deal with power irregularities in teh Philippines, let’s take a look at some other factors.
National Power Supply
The Philippines makes use of traditional power production (fossil fuel-powered stations) and also relies on geothermal and hydroelectric plants. With the population of the Philippines recently hitting 100 million souls and limited increases of actual power production, electricity shortages are becoming a problem. 2015 in particular is going to bring a host of shortages to the Luzon area, with the government there scrambling to source supplemental power generation to cover the expected shortages.
In order to deal with the limited energy supply, many provinces institute planned “brownouts,” rolling them around the state in order to provide at least some daily power to affected shortage areas. Mindanao – which relies heavily on hydroelectric power generation from it’s many raging rivers – is known to have daily rolling brownouts during the “dry” summer months when the water tables across the island drop precipitously. Solar production has been gaining traction over the years, and commercial solar plants are breaking ground in some provinces. The Philippines can also claim the largest solar powered mall in the world, with 5,760 panels being mounted atop the SM City North EDSA mall outputting 1.5 megawatts.
Backup Power Production
A number of commercial/corporate locations and private homes have emergency backup generators. The most fuel efficient of these are diesel generators but some smaller “gennies” only run on gasoline. Some of the larger hotels and malls you will see have massive diesel backup generator arrays in order to ensure continued electrical delivery to their clientele.
Residential solar arrays are becoming more popular as time goes on. Some folks are putting up simple systems to power a single deep cycle battery for a few lights and a fan. Others are putting up larger systems with multiple battery banks that can power the entire home. We had a large system in Dauin that basically powered the entire home – we only had to switch over to the electrical company during extended cloudy periods or when we were running the bathroom water heater too often. Batteries are still the weak link on dedicated solar arrays. With the heat and humidity of the tropics and even with regular maintenance, they still have to be replaced a LOT sooner than those in a more temperate climes. As for cost per kilowatt hour, home solar production systems are still not perfected enough to get a good return on investment, especially in the tropics where you will see about .22 to .35 cents per kilowatt hour. Still, when more efficient batteries are put into production, solar energy will be a total game changer.
Cost source: (http://www.solarray.com/TechGuides/Batteries_T.php)
110V and 220V
The Philippines has a 220 volt electrical grid. If you have a strictly 100 volt appliance (toaster, blender, etc.), you will need a voltage converter in order to use it. Most – if not all – electrical gadgets (phone chargers, desktop and laptop power supplies, gaming system, newer televisions, etc.) all have power supplies that automatically switch between 110 and 220. That said, MAKE SURE to check the fine print on your unit’s power supply to make sure that it does so! I brought over a lot of gadgets from the USA, and the following items are the only things I have issues with:
- My Nintendo Wii is the does not switch automatically between the two voltages and I will need a 220v power supply in order to use it.
- My Nintendo DS Lites also need dedicated 220V charging units.
- An old electrical heating pad for my aching lower back only uses 110 volts. I can use the 110 V outlet on my AVR unit if I want to use it.
- Two 110 volt surge protector/power strips didn’t work here. I plugged them in anyways, let the surge protection unit “blow up,” and now simply use them as power strips (attached to my AVR).
Voltage….er….irregularities are a real problem in the Philippines. Even with the fairly dependable electricity that we receive on Negros Oriental, the voltage levels can vary wildly at time. On Leyte and Mindanao, my fellow authors report that it is even worse. We personally didn’t notice it until we got a desktop PC. Yes, the lights would occasionally dim in the house, but once we got the desktop, it really come to a head, with the PC restarting with even the slightest power fluctuation. We didn’t notice this with our laptops as their power supplies had in-line batteries which would modulate the voltage delivery. To solve the desktop issue, we picked up a fairly inexpensive Automatic Voltage Regular (AVR) and since then – short of a total power loss – we haven’t had any problems. As a matter of fact, I know it’s working as whenever it kicks in, the AVR’s mechanical arms make quite the ruckus as they do their job keeping the voltage steady. AVR’s usually have more than one outlet, so I also have our LED TV and media player hooked up to it. And if I really want to go old school, it’s even got an outlet for 110 volt appliances! The AVR we purchased was a little Sassin SVC-1000 (1000 watt), and it cost us 2,500 pesos. A little expensive, but it’s better than having your TV or computer damaging power spikes. Overall, it’s a great investment.
With a stressed system and limited facilities, electricity costs about twice what it does in the United States, costing – on average – about 10 pesos (or .25 cents USD) per kilowatt hour. The price fluctuates slightly throughout the year depending on a variety of environmental and production factors, but when all is said and done, if you are going to run your electronic devices like you do in the West, it’s going to cost you. I know some expats that run their aircon systems all day and night and are regularly dealing with a seven to eight thousand peso electric bills. After hearing about this even before moving to the RP, I had budgeted $200 USD just for electricity alone. Thankfully – due to some energy savings measures that we will discuss in the next section – our bill has never been that bad.
Paying your electric bill in the Philippines is pretty easy – you can pay them directly at the local electric company office or – better yet for a much shorter line – make your way to a number of local banks that participate in the utilities payment network. Other than Manila and Cebu, you will find online utility payment options limited or non-existent.
Electricity Savings Techniques
After the shock of getting your first electric bill, you will most likely start implementing energy saving measures. The Philippines embraced fluorescent lights in lieu of much less efficient incandescent long before the United States did, but shutting them off when not needed is the first step in cost savings. The second thing you should look at is your air conditioning use. As stated previously, I am a total wimp and need at least the option to turn on my aircon when the heat and humidity here grows to unbearable levels. Back in the US, if it got to hot, I would simply crank the aircon level to it’s highest level (10) and not worry too much about the costs. Here, however, I rarely have the level higher than 4. This brings the room down to a very bearable 78 degrees Fahrenheit and limits the time the compressor is on which lowers our electrical costs. How much you ask? Well, I’ll tell you – We use aircon about 8-10 hours a day and along with our other electrical use (desktop and laptop computers, Playstation 3, 46 inch LED TV, etc) we run about 2,400 pesos a month (or about $54 USD a month). Keep in mind that this is with a .5 HP Carrier Optima aircon that is very efficient and – in my humble opinion – was one of the best purchases we have made. It’s small and only good for a medium-sized bedroom, but it’s cheap to run and has yet to let us down. 🙂
So, that’s about it. If you’ve got any questions or have anything you would like to add, feel free to leave them in the comments section below. This blog entry will probably make it’s way into our upcoming book on the Philippines, so your input is appreciated in advance!