Looking at redemption

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Calvary befell Juan de la Cruz even before Christendom could observe Holy Week this year.
He turns on his faucet, there is no water. He turns on the switch, there is no power. He goes to the bank to get money, he couldn’t. There is a glitch.

He wonders, what the %$&#! is happening?

He goes on to read the papers and he is fed with a conspiracy theory that the shortfall on power and water supplies in Metro Manila and adjacent areas is allegedly meant to weaken the administration of President Duterte.

Manila Water, which had to reduce supply and water pressure last month, is owned by the Ayalas who also operate the Bank of Philippine Islands, the subject of complaints by irate depositors following a disastrous upgrade that turned account balances topsy-turvy. The Ayalas are said to be identified with the family of former President Aquino, the man President Duterte replaced in Malacañang and who has been the subject of his yellow tirades.

Is there a conspiracy to weaken the administration of President Duterte?

Former Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile downplayed such conspiracy notions. “No such thing,” he says, pointing out that creating an artificial shortage of power and water to weaken an administration is tantamount to sabotaging the government. “They cannot do that.
Otherwise they could face state sanctions,” he cautions.

Enrile branded the shortage of water supply in areas covered by the concession of Manila Water as a clear proof that it violated its agreement with the government by failing to upgrade its facilities.

The power shortfall, on the other hand, Enrile blamed on the controversial Electric Power Industry Reform Act or EPIRA of 2001 which he describes as a failure.

“It failed to deliver stable supply and prices of power as proven by the current power outages,” he points out, adding that the El Niño phenomenon was also a huge factor in the ongoing water and energy shortfall due to “the very high demand as a result of extreme heat throughout the country.”

If this is the case, are we seeing now the effects of scarcity in energy supplies?

We believe the dire prognoses are starting to show, as evidenced by Kenya and India’s droughts and subsequent power plant curtailments. This issue is not unique to one country or continent; power plants from Asia to Europe to Africa to the Americas are suffering due to water scarcity.

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2016 found that energy production currently accounts for 10 percent of the world’s total water withdrawals — most of which are used in power plant operations. If current trends continue, hydro and thermal power’s thirst for water will increase even more. This would result in even higher water withdrawals and water consumption (due to water that is withdrawn and lost to evaporation during the thermal power process).

The more the energy sector depends on water, the more it exposes itself to vulnerabilities, so says a study. At the same time, climate change is bringing warmer temperatures, increased variability and increased water scarcity in mid-latitude zones — all which negatively impact the electric power industry. The more the climate warms, the more the power sector will suffer.

The Department of Energy (DoE), however, assured the Philippines is not expected to undergo a power crisis because the potential causes of problems, as well as their remedies, have already been identified.

Although the Luzon grid is experiencing a drop in power reserves for several days now, the DoE maintains that the power outlook, based on data, is still adequate. It attributed the thinning supply of electricity to unplanned outages and de-rated capacity of some power plants.

The DoE, nonetheless, advised the public not to worry about power outages after the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines said the Luzon grid is in a “normal power condition” after being placed under yellow and red alerts in the past days due to thin electricity supply.

Such an assurance is comforting enough for Juan de la Cruz who has to bear the brunt of all these interruptions in basic services. Maybe, just maybe, he could start looking forward to a glorious Easter of redemption.

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