Meralco goes for P1.5-B system automation

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TO keep pace with the demand of a fast-changing technology, power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) is spending P1.5 billion to automate its distribution network system.

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Ronnie Aperocho, Meralco first vice president, said over the weekend that the move is part of a performance-based rate setting application before the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

“For regulatory year 2016, from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016, our budget for automation is around P1.5 billion. All of these are still for approval of ERC,” Aperocho said.

Once the automated system is in place, the power distributor no longer need to rely heavily on the manual capability of their personnel, the Meralco official noted.

“The good thing about it is we provide the intelligence to the system when a particular segment of our system is affected. Readily, we can isolate that system and restore power to the unaffected portions of the circuit,” Aperocho said.

Meralco is gradually building up its systems based on cost-benefit analysis, Aperocho noted.

“When we decide to put a smart substation in area, what’s the benefit once we replace a conventional one into a remote controlled one,” he said.

Meralco is spending P781 million for the Advance Metering Infrastructure which involves installing smart meters.

With the smart meters in place, plus total visibility at the company’s system control center, Meralco can deploy a crew to fix a problem even before the consumer can call for customer service. “It’s part of the proactive service that we would provide our customers,” Aperocho said.

Meralco earlier unveiled a state-of-the art System Control Center that will allow quicker response times during outages due to typhoons.

The control center costs P30 million to P40 million, Aperocho noted, saying it lets Meralco operate with real-time system visibility to improve situational awareness and faster resolution of outages.

The multiple displays in a single four- by 15-meter output platform “accelerates operational decision-making.”

Meralco plans to acquire three drones and pilot a program on immediate assessment of problem areas, especially during typhoons and other calamities.

“We are now in the process of acquiring drone tech. We will be flying the drones, maybe in the coming months, to help us in assessment, especially if there’s a strong typhoon or weather disturbance,” he said.

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