Issue of December 31, 2017
Mt. Province

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Power coop turns to new technology to lower rates
by Hanna C. Lacsamana

The Benguet Electric Cooperative has banked on years of improving its system and processes by maximizing advanced technology in its bid to lower the cost of electricity within its service areas, which it attained recently.

Beneco officials said that its consumers are enjoying one of the cheapest electricity rates in the country, due in part to the firm’s successful efforts to lower systems losses, since it heavily invested on the improvement of its system and distribution network.

Effective rate for residential consumers as of July 2016 is P8.1432 per kilowatt-hour.

As of October, Beneco’s systems loss is 9.83 percent and averaged from January to October at 8.66 percent, which are both ways lower than the 13 percent allowed ceiling.

For this, Beneco received an award in April for having the lowest systems loss. 

“We could not have attained lower rates if not for the continuous improvements in our distribution network,” said Engr. Melchor Licoben, Beneco Network Services Division head.

He said Beneco is looking forward to fully becoming a smart grid, a venture that was started back in the ‘80s, which uses advanced technology and infrastructure for more efficient and reliable operation and distribution setup.

He said improvements have continued through the years.

In terms of operations, they are now keeping a control center at the South Drive head office, which allows personnel to communicate with personnel on-field.

Substations are now also fully automated, which means there is no longer a need for personnel to man them.

This is part of the utility’s physical integration where they use, among others, fiber optics and radio frequencies to communicate with their facilities from the central office.

They have also outsourced the maintenance of the Atok, Bakun, Buguias, Mankayan, Kabayan, and Bokod to former Beneco linemen instead of hiring new personnel so that existing staff workers could concentrate on introducing new system improvements.

Although still in the elementary stage, Licoben said they are now implementing smart meters starting from large subscribers, which comprise 30 percent of Beneco’s customers, so that there is no need for an employee to go to the area and read their monthly consumption.

Pre-paid metering is also being pilot tested in 1,000 residential consumers, comprised of Beneco employees, at least three of their relatives, and other interested consumers.

In 2017, Licoben said Beneco spent more than P130 million in capital expenditures, which included improvements of substations – P8M, primary lines – P15.7M, secondary lines – P24M; and installation of additional transformers – P45M for additional accounts in Baguio and La Trinidad.

It also spent P27.7M for operational expenses.

For sitio electrification, P14M was spent to bring electricity to 13 unlit sitios in Benguet; while eight sitios in Kabayan benefited from the P9.5M released by the National Electrification Administration for the Barangay Line Enhancement Program.

Delfin B. Cachin, Non-network and Revenue Services Department head, also announced their plan to put up a centralized and integrated call center office, their own agents and complete facilities, which would exclusively address consumers’ concerns.

Beneco has 187,348 accounts as of November.

Cachin added clients have also been increasing due to booming businesses and new establishments, averaging 0.5 percent growth or 500 to 800 news accounts monthly.

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