AGHAM asks gov’t to speed up smart meters

THE Alyansa ng mga Grupong Haligi ng Agham at Teknolohiya Para sa Mamamayan  (AGHAM)) and its president, Angelo B. Palmones, called on the Department of Emergy (DOE) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to fast track the smart meters in the Philippines.

Palmones, a former congressman of AGHAM, explained that “the use of smart meters will empower the consumer to be able to manage his electricity consumption.”

“If we are able to use smart meters on a wide-scale basis, this will be a win for both consumers and for the power industry,” said Palmones.

“For example, if we had smart meters already during the ECQ, there would have been no need to do estimated meter-reading, since the 150 distribution utilities in the country could have read meters remotely. Consumers would not have suffered from ‘bill shock’ when meter reading resumed,” Palmones explained.

“The pandemic shows that the power industry needs to adjust to the ‘new normal’ and hurry up the roll-out as this is the next step and next wave of future technology. We must now embrace smart meters and digitization of the electric grid,” he said.

Palmones explained “Right now the number smart meters are only used for prepaid electricity, which ERC approved, and only for Meralco. What about the rest of the country? Even with Meralco, there are only around 100,000 smart meters, limited to prepaid, and only in limited residential areas. So, we at AGHAM call for action to be taken on the pending filings for smart meters.”

Coming from his recent radio interview with Ms. Maria Theresa Capellan, Chairperson of the Philippine Solar and Storage Energy Alliance (PSSEA), Palmones stated that “this pandemic has us adjusting our lifestyle, as we work-from-home and purchase groceries and do more transactions online, which will mean more electricity consumption in our homes.”

Capellan said in her interview with Palmones there is an opportunity for consumers to turn to renewable energy via solar rooftops, to mitigate higher household consumption patterns.

Key to enabling this would be the use of smart meters, which will assist in monitoring power generated by solar panels for homes and businesses, he said.

Smart meters also enable customers to monitor and control what they are consuming in real-time.

This was especially evident in a community she observed in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan badly affected by the strict lockdowns. Residents, most especially daily wage workers who found themselves out of work, benefitted from a prepaid metering scheme as they were able to manage their budgets and consumed within their means.

There was no “bill shock” as no estimation was needed, with customers having access to actual meter readings.

Smart meters allow distribution utilities and electric cooperatives the ability to control the grid from afar, meaning this gives them the ability to read meters remotely, prevent pilferage, and allow low- income communities to better budget for their power needs.

During the interview, Capellan pointed out how right now, Manila Electric Company (Meralco) only has a relatively small volume of smart meters rolled out but wishes for more to be utilized in the near future for its franchise area and AGHAM reaffirms this stance.

AGHAM said, “Many other countries are already doing and using such technology, thus we believe we can follow these best practices and advance our own technology as well. We hope government and regulator can assist in speeding up the process. Smart meters with two-way communication between utilities and customers revolutionizes the customer experience, with more empowerment and connectivity, and allows for more Filipinos to enjoy renewable energy that provides savings.”

Palmones highlighted “The system will enable distribution utilities to determine what is happening in its electric grid, quickly respond to outages alert customers to these outages, and restore power swiftly. It will also allow customers to efficiently manage their energy usage and budget through consumption information, alerts and notifications. Service will reach customers faster, quicker, and with more accuracy per concern.”

Palmones stressed “The prepaid electricity program of Meralco has already shown success in the past couple of years. Even more telling is that prepaid customers had no “bill shock” experience during ECQ, as they were provided with real time consumption information. This is a good sign prepaid meters should be prioritized immediately. We have to move fast and not get left behind by the rest of the world.”

AGHAM clarified that “our group is in principle against forced imposition programs that do not immediately yield benefits to consumers but make up part of the electric bill, like for example FiT- All. Net metering, in contrast, presumes a customer chose to put up a solar rooftop system and by adding smart meter technology will efficiently integrate renewables to the grid. This will encourage your average consumer to get behind solar and renewables as access to real-time information will empower them to adjust their consumption patterns around getting the most out of their solar rooftop system to be able to maximize savings. We will support science and technology-based initiatives to strengthen consumers’ choice, such as a smart grid and solar rooftop technology.

The stimulus package discussed by Capellan of PSSEA is encouraging because this will deploy smart meters to customers, with importance to those living in high-risk areas, and will consist of a three-year plan.