BIZ BUZZ: Power crisis? Meet the sustainable solution

As what usually happens when the economy starts picking up, policymakers and business leaders start to worry about the supply of electricity needed to power the country. But more importantly, this time around, prospective solutions also have to be sustainable.

Well, say no more. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and San Miguel Corp. president and CEO Ramon Ang will finally inaugurate today a 1,000-megawatt Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) in Limay, Bataan.

When the San Miguel head unveiled his plan for a nationwide BESS network, not a few eyebrows were raised and many rivals had their doubts about his ability to deliver a farm of massive batteries around the country that will help steady the erratic supply of electricity, especially in far-flung provinces.

But here it is: the first of a total of more than 30 facilities built in strategic areas nationwide under San Miguel Global Power is the first of its kind in the Philippines and—believe it or not—is among one of the largest integrated grid-scale battery storage projects in the world.

The system has a number of benefits, the first of which is improving power quality and reliability, and boosting rural electrification all over the country. With San Miguel’s battery facilities located in critical areas, it can store power from existing power facilities and deploy quality, reliable supply whenever, wherever it is needed, within milliseconds.

With more equitable distribution of affordable power, far-off provinces no longer need to play second fiddle to established economic centers.

Secondly, BESS can help mitigate the looming power crisis. That’s because the excess capacity of baseload power plants during off-peak hours (when power rates are also cheaper) can be used to power these batteries which, in turn, can be drawn by local users when demand peaks.

And because the electricity is available instantly, power plants won’t need to go through inefficient startup and shutdown cycles, resulting in lower generation costs and ultimately, lower electric bills for consumers.

Most importantly, BESS can facilitate the country’s faster transition to renewables. Many supposed environmentalist groups have been haranguing power companies—San Miguel Global Power is a favorite target—for operating coal and liquefied natural gas power plants, without acknowledging the fact that, without fossil fuels, we will all be plunged back into the dark ages.

The main issue is that renewable energy sources are intermittent and unreliable: the sun won’t shine all day, the wind won’t blow all the time and with El Niño, dam water levels are expected to decline. Solar, wind and hydro energy sources, on their own, cannot support the massive demands of the resurgent economy.

While many companies make themselves look “green” by touting new solar or wind investments, San Miguel took the necessary leap to solve the intermittence of renewable energy through its nationwide BESS network. In the end, everybody wins. But don’t expect the conglomerate’s critics to stay quiet for long. Abangan.

—Daxim L. Lucas