start your day with power

today, i will be  edith bueno, waking up early and switching on the power that runs  all over the country. this day i shall be a warrior of light.

but first,  i will say my prayers  and thank God i am  bodywise and heartsavvy. then i will take my first hour at work by walking briskly inside the building to greet all my staff , smile at them and accept what they prioritized for  yesterday, today and tomorrow.  the agenda has been set. we  in NEA  and all of the country’s 119 electric coops need to finish the electrification of 45,000 barangays. this goal had been set forty years ago by the national government during Marcos time.   let me share a brief story of electricity  before we  leap into the future because you  need to know how  electric power  goes to the people and why the people should own  and conserve it .

david bodanis,in his book Electric Universe, wrote  who were the first to discover metal electricity. the story  of electricity begins with  the love story of alexander graham bell and mabel hubbard in 1875. alexander bell  invented an artificial voice box that mimicked the human voice in order to court mabel hubbard who was hearing-challenged. this voice box became the telephone.  mabel married alexander bell.  mabel  became a model for women’s rights during the victorian era and  overcame the obstacles that a woman with impaired auditory nerves encountered . mabel  became a partner to bell’s inventiveness and they run the Bell Telephone company with great success. they had a happy and productive life.

alexander  bell’s telephone put the telegraph business at risk and thomas edison was hired to crush alexander bell in 1877. as a patent breaker, edison was notorius but in the end, thomas edision became interested in how bell used electricity and worked at producing artificial light. thomas edison spent millions but succeeded in inventing the electric bulb. the irony is that” thomas edison could have been the greatest electrician of his age, yet he didnt know what was happening inside the electric wire.”(david bodanis Electric Universe,page 52). it was joseph john thomson called J.J. who discovered the electrons. Electrons creates the electricity inside the wire.

electricity  is everywhere, inside our bodies, inside all metals and in force fields. david  bodanis said that it took many centuries to prove it.   the  imaginative scientists were ,joseph thomson, michael faraday, heinrich hertz, watson watts and alan turing. when we buy our electrical items we see the words amperes, volts , watts ,hertz and turing.  these labels on technology and gadgets have a history of people who lived, imagined, loved, betrayed and who persisted to harness the power of electrons. we are indebted to these people, especially alan turing who started the exploration of a thinking machine we now call a computer. there were lso women scientists and writers. mary shelley who wrote Frankestein and imagined electricity as the spark of life. ada countess of lovelace , the daughter of lord byron , worked on the early notions of computer programming during faraday’s times.

In our country, electricity came to Manila in 1892 with the founding of La Electricista, which began providing electricity to residential customers. With the completion of a new power plant in 1895, La Electricista began providing street lighting service to the city as well. By the beginning of the 1900s, La Electricista boasted some 3,000 customers, as well as its streetlight business. (see Meraclo’s story in its website).

In 1903, the young government of the Philippines began accepting bids to operate Manila’s electric tramway, as well as providing electricity to the city and its suburbs. The only bidder proved to be Charles M. Swift, a Detroit-based businessman, who founded a new company, The Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company, or Meralco, in 1903. Construction on the tramway began that same year. The following year, Meralco added its first electrical power operations by acquiring La Electricista. By 1906, the company boasted a yearly power output capacity of some eight million kWh.

The Philippines government itself responded to the growing demand for electricity in 1936 by establishing the National Power Corporation (Napocor), with Meralco signing a contract to purchase the entire output of  Napocor’s first facility.

At this juncture of my story, let me jump  over  a hundred years, from   1892 to 2009 . Bear with me as I put you into several platforms to understand where we are going.  . Am  Edith Bueno, your NEA administrator  and has to implement  EPIRA.

so what is this EPIRA,  is this another invention that gives power to the people?

EPIRA  has three main objectives: 1) to develop indigenous resources; 2) to cut the high cost of electric power in the Philippines; and 3) to encourage private and foreign investment. Passage of the Act set into motion the deregulation of the power industry and the breakup and eventual privatization of state-owned enterprises.

Developing indigenous resources is viable in the Philippines due to its many natural resources.The Philipines  has many watersheds and volcanoes,  which are renewable power sites. An indigenous power source is hydro plant, from water power.  It takes five years to develop a hydro power plant and another five years to become fully operational but  can operate for at most a 100 years.

Sidestory : Meralco received new contracts from the Philippines government in 2003, extending its franchise in the metro Manila market through another 25 years. The company’s 100th anniversary celebrations that year were dampened somewhat, however, by a Philippines Supreme Court judgment ordering the company to pay back overcharges to customers from a four-year period. Estimates of the potential payback bill ranged up to P 28 billion ($500 million), a price Meralco claimed it was unable to pay. Indeed, by May 2001, the company, which had seen its request for a fee hike rejected amid a sales slump, reported a net loss of more than P 2 billion ($38 million) for 2002, prompting members of the government to call the Lopez family’s management of the company into question.

Inspiring subplot:“Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technology, it happens when society adopts new behavior”.  Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody

The new behavior was bringing the women into the rural electrification revolution. Women were part of the cooperative development task force that NEA organized in 1969 to energize the archipelago. Edith Bueno, my role model, started to work in the government in the early 1970s.

So what do women bring into the electric domain that qualifies them as warriors of light, or iluminadas ? The power of organizing and educating the citizens, enlivening and enlightening tasks. In 1969, the government vision was that of an energized archipelago, where all the islands have electricity, from the cities to the remotest barangay. This vision saw the organizing of electric cooperatives. Electricity for all  is not possible without political will. Even if private companies like Meralco dreamt of becoming wholly patriotic and served our people, it will not be able to energize 45,000 barangays. It takes a revolutionary policy that brings electricity to all. by revolutionary, it means changing the way people live and think.

in the next blogs, I will share the way women became revolutionary with the coming of  light in the remotest villages.

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2 Comments on “start your day with power”

  1. Rene "RC" Catacutan Says:

    Wow, Girlie,you have exceeded my science, physics and history teachers COMBINED. I should attend your class too. I’d like to know why Napocor is burning GOLD for power generation instead of simply using the much cheaper bunker oil or even coal. I’d like to know too why Meralco is supplying VERY EXPENSIVE ELECTRICITY when it can just simply distribute the gold that Napocor burned. On second thought, what’s the point in knowing — the prices of gold and electricity in the Philippines are one and the same anyway. Pagbutihin mo ha? “May liwanag ang buhay” ng Meralco at Napocor sa kuryente!

  2. mvillariba Says:

    it’s not my class, the EPIRA course is in UP NEC with prof. wally del mundo. it’s for three days and the fee is P8000 inclusive of materials. but one needs to prepare why you want to study it.for me, i want to do consumer advocacy. now i know what it takes to do rate setting and apply tariff controls.

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