Climate-proofing the country’s electricity infrastructure will help address power outages and avoid the high socioeconomic cost, according to a study by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). 

In “Electricity Supply Interruptions in the Philippines: Characteristics, Trends, Causes”, author and PIDS Research Fellow Kris Francisco investigated the causes and trends of power interruptions in the country using electric cooperatives’ monthly interruption reports to the National Electrification Administration (NEA).

Francisco stressed that electricity supply interruptions hurt households, businesses, and the economy. Power outages increase households’ and businesses’ expenses to keep them running and disrupt “critical infrastructure” such as banking, transportation, telecommunications, and production, which can lead to huge economic losses.

The study showed that major storms, earthquakes, and lightning cost the country 107.4 million consumer-hours in 2021, a 10-percent increase from 97.2 million consumer-hours in 2015. Consumer-hours was computed by multiplying the duration of power outages (in hours) by the number of affected customers.

It noted that the country’s access to electricity has improved. World Bank data show that the gap between rural and urban electrification was slashed from 30 percent in 2000 to less than 10 percent in 2015.

Under NEA’s supervision, electric cooperatives are crucial in providing electricity in rural areas. They are the “core provider of electricity services for households” outside of Metro Manila, especially in Visayas, providing 51 percent of the country’s household electricity in 2011, overshadowing private utilities (34%) and other providers (15%).

Though access to electricity has improved, the country’s power supply remains insufficient. “Policies give little attention to improving the reliability of electricity supply. The fast-growing electricity demand is causing stress during peak-power demand months, resulting in widespread blackouts and electricity supply interruptions”, Francisco said.

The study highlighted that customers of electric cooperatives experienced, on average, 5.7 power interruptions or 8.8 hours of no power in 2021, an improvement from 2015’s 11 hours. More frequent power interruptions occurred in Luzon, while longer power outages happened in Visayas.

According to Francisco, power outages were caused by supply, technical, environmental (“interruptions due to natural events” like storms), and other issues that cover “prescribed” or unspecified problems in the monthly interruption reports.

Extended power outages are caused by storms and other environment-related factors and are “more concentrated in Luzon than in Visayas and Mindanao”. While all island groups continue to have prolonged blackouts due to technical and supply issues, Visayas is more affected by insufficient electricity supply.

“This is quite concerning given that the Philippines experiences numerous typhoons a year. Concurrently, this begs the need to improve and climate-proof our power and electricity-related infrastructure to protect them from damages and shorten the duration of weather-related downtime,” the author said.

The study recommended prioritizing the climate-proofing of power and electricity-related infrastructure and crafting policies that expand electric cooperatives’ access to more power supply and generation capacity.

It also called for improving the electricity sector’s reporting and data management to aid policymaking.

This press release is based on the PIDS discussion paper titled “Electricity Supply Interruptions in the Philippines: Characteristics, Trends, Causes”. ###

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