Power Struggles: Transformers Overload as Extreme Heatwaves Intensifies

May 02, 2024


As temperatures soar across the Philippines, the nation braces itself for scorching conditions, with heat indices reaching alarming levels. The heat index, a measure of what the temperature feels like to the human body when humidity is factored in, has surged to dangerous levels, prompting warnings from meteorological authorities.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), areas experiencing a heat index ranging from 42 to 51°C are at risk of heat-related illnesses such as cramps, exhaustion, and potentially fatal heat strokes. Recent data reveals that the highest recorded heat index this week peaked at a blistering 48°C in CBSUA, Pili, Camarines Sur, and Catarman, Northern Samar.

In response to the escalating heatwave, the Center for Energy Ecology and Development has labeled the situation an "emergency," urging swift action to mitigate its impact. The Department of Health (DOH) reports a concerning uptick in heat-related illnesses, with 67 cases already documented among individuals aged 12 to 21 years old from January to April this year, predominantly in Central Visayas.

DOH advocates for proactive measures to safeguard public health. In the event of heat stroke symptoms, immediate first aid is crucial:

  • Move the individual to a shaded, cool area, ensuring proper ventilation.
  • Remove outer clothing to aid in cooling.
  • Apply cold compresses or ice packs to key areas of the body, including the head, neck, and armpits.
  • Encourage the person to drink cool water slowly if conscious, while swiftly seeking medical assistance.

To prevent heat-related illnesses, the DOH emphasizes limiting outdoor activities, staying hydrated, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine. Additionally, individuals are advised to utilize protective measures such as umbrellas, hats, and appropriate clothing, scheduling strenuous activities during cooler times of the day.

The onset of the warm and dry season, coupled with the El Niño phenomenon, underscores the urgency of addressing rising temperatures. Furthermore, the United Nations' stark warning of "global boiling" signals a critical need for collective action to combat climate change and its adverse effects on communities worldwide.

As the nation confronts the challenges of extreme heat, proactive measures, public awareness, and swift response remain essential in safeguarding the well-being of all citizens amidst the sweltering conditions.

Power outages experienced in some areas due to overloaded transformers

Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga says some customers have bought additional appliances particularly airconditioning units and electric fans which they all use simultaneously to beat the hot weather.

Zaldarriaga explained that a transformer in an area can only accommodate a certain load. When consumers use all their appliances at once, an overload occurs which will automatically stop the flow of electricity to houses resulting in a power interruption.

When asked why it takes 2-3 days to restore electricity in some areas, Zaldarriaga said that this is because of the sheer number of localized outages in its franchise area.

"Humihingi ako ng pang unawa sa ating mga kababayan dahil sa sheer volume dahil sa dami ng mga insidente. Minsan we need to prioritize yung restoration protocol," said Zaldarriaga.

(English Translation: I would like to apologize to the public because of the sheer volume of incidents. Sometimes we need to prioritize the restoration protocol.)

Meralco chairman and CEO Manny Pangilinan sees the need for the utility to prepare for a similar occurrence in the future where transformers cannot sustain higher electricity demand.

Sources: Meralco , PAGASA , DOE

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