Hosted by the Meralco Power Academy, the three-day Giga Summit on Sustainable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Future Grid showcased insights and best practices from over 30 local and international power industry experts.
For a developing country like the Philippines, adequacy of power supply is crucial to sustain the economic growth momentum. Also equally important, especially with the undeniable threats of climate change, is ensuring that the country continues its path towards a sustainable energy future.
From L-R: MPA Executive Director Ian V. Colorina, Meralco FVP and Chief HR Officer Edgardo V. Carasig, University of California, Berkeley Director of International Partnerships for College of Engineering Dr. Matthew P. Sherburne, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation Executive Vice President Roland Backhaus, Canada-based Filipino nuclear scientist Dr. Francisco “Ike” Dimayuga of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Pangasinan 2nd District Representative and Chairperson of Special Committee on Nuclear Energy Mark Cojuangco, DOE Secretary Raphael “Popo” P.M. Lotilla, Meralco Chairman and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan, Knesset (Parliament of Israel) for the National Unity member Orit Farkash-Hacohen, Meralco EVP and COO Ronnie L. Aperocho, Director of Illinois Microreactor R&D Center Dr. Caleb Brooks, and MPA President Nixon G. Hao.
As the country’s largest distribution utility, the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) has been actively taking part in powering progress and future-proofing the energy industry.
Meralco Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ronnie L. Aperocho discussed the vital role the distribution utilities such as Meralco plays in the energy transition through the grid of the future.
Through Meralco Power Academy (MPA), its energy education arm, the company spearheaded the first ever Giga Summit on Sustainable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Future Grid — a 3-day conference that showcased insights and best practices from over 30 local and international power industry experts.
Aiming to be a catalyst for change and improvement in the energy industry, Giga Summit effectively served as a platform wherein industry leaders, policymakers, and experts can discuss innovative solutions and emerging trends.
Canada-based Filipino nuclear scientist Dr. Francisco “Ike” Dimayuga of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited was among the nuclear experts who graced the event. He discussed the potential of Small Nuclear Reactor (SMR) for Energy Sustainability and Security.
“Meralco will send some of our engineers to a two-year graduate program targeting local talents who are graduates and practicing Mechanical, Electrical, Material Engineering, and related areas in universities in the US, in Canada, Korea, Japan, France,” Meralco Chairman and CEO Manuel V. Pangilinan said.
Accelerating the transition toward cleaner energy
Discussions during the summit’s first day were centered on achieving sustainable energy by utilizing more progressive energy sources that are beneficial to the people and the planet. Nuclear power, as one of the modern technologies that have been gaining significant attention in the energy industry, expectedly took center stage.
The knowledge of nuclear energy experts, including Canada-based Filipino nuclear scientist Dr. Francisco “Ike” Dimayuga of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation Executive Vice President Roland Backhaus, University of California Berkeley Director of International Partnerships for College of Engineering Dr. Matthew P. Sherburne, and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Director of Illinois Microreactor R&D Center Dr. Caleb Brooks, added immeasurable value to the summit.
To further support the Philippines’ push for the integration of nuclear power in the country’s energy portfolio, Meralco also launched the Filipino Scholars and Interns on Nuclear Engineering (FISSION) program during the summit.
According to Meralco Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Manuel V. Pangilinan, the company intends to invest in local talents and support aspiring Filipino nuclear engineers to help accelerate the development of nuclear power through education and training in the highly specialized field of nuclear engineering.
The readiness to roll out this initiative to help the country develop local nuclear energy experts was first communicated by Mr. Pangilinan in March 2023. He also underscored the importance of establishing a regulatory framework and cultivating a pool of skilled professionals to lead the adoption and advancement of nuclear energy in the Philippines.
Meralco is eyeing top global engineering universities, including the University of California Berkeley, the University of Illinois, the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, and Université Paris–Saclay, for FISSION.
Scheduled to run from 2025 to 2027, this two-year program will be offered to graduates and practitioners in Mechanical, Electrical, Materials, and Metallurgical Engineering, Physics, and other related disciplines.
Following the academic phase, the selected scholars will also undergo a one-year immersion and internship from 2027 to 2028 at partner SMR (Small Modular Reactor) and MMR (Micro Modular Reactor) facilities abroad like Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC).
Upon completion of the graduate and internship programs, there will be a Re-entry Action Plan to facilitate the scholars’ return to the Philippines in 2029. The scholars are expected to render their expertise to the company and the Philippine government.
“Hopefully, this is the start of exploring and considering seriously new options for this country to achieve a smarter and greener future,” Mr. Pangilinan said.
At the forefront of electric mobility development
Also, among the main topics discussed during the Giga Summit were the numerous ways to optimize energy consumption, a key strategy in lowering greenhouse gas emissions, such as implementing measures and deploying technologies that promote the efficient use of energy across various sectors, especially in transportation.
Meralco Senior Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer Ferdinand O. Geluz, in his speech, highlighted how Meralco, through its wide array of programs and initiatives, has been supporting the government’s push on energy efficiency and conservation.
With transportation identified as the primary contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the Philippines, implementing sustainable mobility solutions such as adopting electric vehicles (EVs) has become an urgent priority for the government.
In April 2022, Republic Act No. 11697 or the Electric Vehicle Industry Development Act (EVIDA) was enacted, driving the country towards a new era of eco-friendly mobility. The act outlined a comprehensive framework that encourages the development, production, and adoption of EVs across the archipelago.
Through its network and capabilities, Meralco intends to be at the forefront of the electric mobility development in the Philippines.
Meralco is targeting to complete at least 25% fleet electrification by 2030 under its Green Mobility Program.
Mr. Geluz shared that with the successful electrification of 156 or 7% of the company’s vehicles, Meralco already exceeded the 5% mandatory EV share of corporate and government fleets under the EVIDA Law.
By 2030, the company targets to electrify at least 25% of its vehicle fleet through its Green Mobility program.
Meralco’s current fleet of EVs comprises e-cars, e-vans, e-pickups, and e-motorcycles, which serve the daily operational needs of the company’s sector offices and business sectors. To support the charging requirements of these EVs, Meralco has also installed 39 EV chargers in its different offices across its franchise area.
The company, through its green mobility unit Movem Electric Inc., also partners with like-minded organizations and institutions to promote a cleaner and more sustainable transportation system. It has so far deployed 247 EVs and installed 139 charging stations for private sector partners and institutional clients.
Transitioning to the grid of the future
On the last day of the Giga Summit, the need to fast-track the development and integration of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to meet the growing demand for a smarter and more resilient energy infrastructure was emphasized.
In his speech, Mr. Aperocho shared how the company supports the energy sector in the face of unprecedented disruptions, anchored to the global push to do the 4Ds – Decarbonize, Digitalize, Decentralize, and Democratize, in addressing the threats of climate change.
Meralco has already rolled out various initiatives aimed at helping decarbonize the grid. The company embarked on a smart grid journey enabled by cross-cutting information technology/operational technology (IT/OT), communications, and cybersecurity technologies.
A key highlight mentioned by Mr. Aperocho is the deployment of 140,000 smart meters, most of which were used by the company for its prepaid electricity program, covering small, selected parts of its franchise area.
Utilizing smart meters enables Meralco to use a customer-centric and proactive approach in its operations, directly benefiting its customers by providing them with near-real time feedback on their electricity consumption. Capitalizing on the abundance of data provided by smart meters and through its AMI program, the company uses an advanced outage management system to gain operational visibility down to the household level and detect outages, enabling faster response time without relying on customer reports.
Mr. Aperocho also shared how Meralco drives other initiatives in its continuing bid to help accelerate the energy transition such as the utilization of Energy Storage Systems to improve its network operations.
In 2018, Meralco successfully piloted a grid-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) in San Rafael, Bulacan, to demonstrate its capability to deliver multiple distribution ancillary services. This was followed by the completion of the pilot on mechanical-type ESS using a long-duration flywheel technology used within the company’s in-house research and training facility aptly called Power Tech.
Over the next few years, Meralco aims to pioneer the use of pole-mounted BESS to increase the hosting capacity of low-voltage networks and mobile BESS to provide backup power during planned line maintenance works.
Furthermore, Meralco also started employing renewable energy-based microgrids using solar and battery technologies for off-grid electrification to expand energy access and provide reliable, affordable, and sustainable power for all.
“The energy landscape is evolving rapidly, bringing a lot of challenges. I am optimistic that we can overcome these if we commit to fulfilling our roles and obligations, work together to achieve our common goal, and have the proper mindset to innovate and deliver effective energy solutions,” Mr. Aperocho said.
Stemming from the company’s advocacy to contribute to strengthening the power industry, Meralco also hosted over 100 electric cooperatives (ECs) during the Giga Summit so they, too, could learn from global experts and adopt best practices in energy management and advanced metering infrastructure. This initiative recognizes the important roles of ECs in the evolving energy landscape, empowering them to further improve their operations and the services they deliver to their respective stakeholders.
The Giga Summit was supported by MPower, Vantage Energy, First Philippine Electric Cooperation, PPI Pazifik Power Inc., Siemens, and Exist Software Labs, Inc.