By Limuel S. Celebria
Last Friday (November 20), MORE Power and Electric Company put on stream its 10-MVA substation located close to the Iloilo Business Park in Megaworld. Originally conceived as a “mobile substation” to augment the city power grid, the new substation is now dedicated to meet the increasing demand at the Megaworld business district where more infrastructure continue to pop up.
The move also frees the problematic Mandurriao substation from substantial demand. Previously, the Mandurriao station is operating at near 100 % capacity which is already considered critical level. Ideally, according to experts, a substation should operate at 70% capacity to avoid overloading and breakdowns.
Making his virtual presence felt during the launching,
Enrique K. Razon Jr., Chairman & President of Prime Strategic Holdings, Inc., said MORE Power is embarking on a “stream of capacity expansion” that will see the addition of a 30MVA mobile substation, a new 50MVA substation at another end of Iloilo Business Park, and new substations in Arevalo District and Diversion area as well as the expansion of the City Proper and Jaro substations. More has earmarked close to P2 Billion for these projects that are targeted to be realized within the next five years.
Apart from the preventive maintenance works which More conducted on all the substations in the city, the Megaworld substation may be considered the first real investment plunked by More Power after taking over the operations of Panay Electric Company as the city’s power supply distributor only in February this year.
More Power’s franchise took effect in 2019 but a series of legal obstacles raised by PECO, including the constitutionality of certain provisions of the franchise given to More, delayed the takeover. Several weeks ago, in what could be considered a landmark or precedent-setting jurisprudence, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the franchise granted to More especially the power to acquire the properties of the previous utility company under the power of eminent domain delegated to it by Congress. The Supreme Court ruling clears all obstacles – real or imagined by Peco, to proceed with its mandate to distribute power in Iloilo City.
Last week, too, upon the invitation of our good friend Jonathan Cabrera, we were able to visit More Power’s headquarters and we are pleasantly surprised at the readiness and capability of More Power to serve the power needs of Iloilo City. It is quite an upgrade from the previous distributor. For example, MORE is harnessing the power of digital technology to pinpoint or locate troublesome spots in real-time, respond to calls for assistance, dispatch troubleshooters in pre-positioned areas, or even monitor comments on social media.
In another room, a panel of monitors display (again, in real-time) the supply of electricity available in the West Visayas Electric Spot Market and at how much per kWh. While More Power has a direct purchase agreement with a local supplier (PEDC), it also has the flexibility to dip (buy or sell) into the WESM when prices are favorable. Ultimately, the Iloilo City consumer is served with a lower price per kWh. Comparatively, More’s power rate ranges from a low of P9.50 to a high of P11 per kWh. During PECO’s time, the price hovers between P11 and P12/kWh, at one point it was even considered the highest in the world.
More Power President Ruel Castro walked us through evidence of what has become the bane of the power distribution system in Iloilo City – massive pilferage. When More took over, it began a no-nonsense drive against power theft. MORE Power estimates at 30,000 the number of illegal connections in the city. The problem is so pervasive even local barangay officials are involved, not just in illegal tapping for household consumption but in facilitating in a grand scheme of pilferage to benefit up to 100 households. The illegal lines crawl over rooftops or encased in PVC pipes and buried in the ground. A great bulk of the power lines seized are in fact industrial grade.
To let the public know that MORE is serious in its effort against power theft, it has filed cases against those that have been caught. But that is not enough. It seeks the cooperation of the public.
Power theft not only affects the paying consumers in terms of increased rates but more so in terms of diminished and unreliable service. Electric pole fires, exploding transformers, fluctuating voltage that damage appliances – all these are the direct result of unabated power theft.
Amid all this, Castro said, MORE Power is committed to investing in Iloilo City, to improve and upgrade the system. Hopefully, the Ilonggos can reciprocate with their support and cooperation.