Looking for some place to bring the family this Christmas aside from the malls? Check out Liwanag Park, Meralco’s annual Maliwanag ang Pasko tradition on the grounds of Meralco’s head office in Ortigas. The lighting up of the park fronting the main building has been an annual tradition for years and a popular Christmas destination for families and tourists in Metro Manila.
I still remember the days of old when I was growing up. Whenever we had a power outage in our area, it was a challenge to reach Meralco. Phone lines were jammed all the time. We had to tune in to radio stations via our portable radio to find out what areas were affected and how soon power would be restored. No one had any idea if their area would be affected by maintenance of power lines. Basically, Meralco customers were pretty much in the dark (pun intended).
A new Meralco, however, has been emerging from its corporate shell. Going beyond its official website which was then a one-way, company-to-customers information dissemination tool, it began engaging the public on social media by creating a Twitter account (@meralco) and a Facebook page. Suddenly, access to Meralco widened beyond the capacity of phone lines as maintenance schedules were posted online and inquiries from customers were answered more rapidly.
In continuing plans to better inform the public and to improve public service, Meralco has revamped its website to make it more responsive to the public’s needs.
When you land on its homepage, it gives you two different portals. FOR CUSTOMERS provides answers to customers’ concerns including electricity consumption, bill-related matters and new account applications. THE COMPANY is where you find corporate information like annual reports, business partnerships, stakeholder relations and investor information.
Since most of us are consumers, I’ll focus on the FOR CUSTOMERS portal. Here’s what you get when you choose that option.
The navigation bar on the topmost part lists the website’s main sections. At the bottom are links to frequently accessed information. The Quick Links on left sidebar provide more detailed information for customers and the center area is reserved for the most recent videos, photos and articles for customers to know.
The Meralco Appliance Calculator (AppCal for short), which is a link under Quick Links, brings you to a web application where customers can compute and gauge their electricity consumption based on the different appliances they use at home. Computations can be specific to the type of appliance, corresponding wattage, and frequency of usage. The AppCal calculates cost per hour, day, week, and month. The AppCal also takes into account the prevailing generation charge for the month.
For those with smartphones and tablets, AppCal is now a FREE downloadable app. I’ve downloaded it on my ipad.
But a few days ago, a handful of us bloggers were invited to come see how Meralco was innovating, using available technology to empower its consumers and shape a world-class standard of living. We got a glimpse of what they are looking into to employ digital technology and incorporate it into home living.
As a consumer of electricity, walk through these possibilities with me and see which ones you’d like to see Meralco introduce soon to your home.
Innovation #1: Meralco’s Current Distribution Automation
Think of this situation. A power outage suddenly occurs somewhere in Meralco’s web of grids. In real-time, using information on their screen, they are able to pinpoint the source of the outage, shut down that malfunctioning grid, and even re-route power, if needed. The red and green icons on the screen reflect where the grids are closed or open. With these equipment, Meralco can monitor and control distribution systems from remote locations, including the overall health of the electric grid. All in real time.
They are now looking into other innovations that may be introduced to consumers. These innovations try to take advantage of existing and developing technologies to empower the consumer to manage his own energy consumption by making this information accessible even when the consumer is away from home.
I know that in North America, in particular, many green homes are already equipped with these technologies. Let’s take a look at some innovations.
Think prepaid load. If it can be done with mobile phones, why not power? If you can top up your phone via SMS, it can now be done for electricity as well. Here’s how it works:
|The lighted meter has load while the unlighted one does not.|
|Software allows you to monitor your usage and load|
|A light’s energy consumption reflects on this devic|
Simply send out an SMS indicating how much you want to top up.
When you’re done, this is the confirmation you see on your phone
Innovation #3: The Energy Management Portal
Imagine that now, you can have a device in your home that is able to check your energy consumption (by room or per appliance), compare your consumption to a previous month or previous year — all in real time. Via an energy management portal on a computer, you can analyze your consumption so you can turn appliances on and off to meet your power budget.
|Illustration of what a smart home could look like|
|From your device, monitor your energy consumption timeline…|
|…and your utility consumption — in real-time|
Innovation #4: The Smart Home
Here’s what a future smart home would look like. Add a “smart plug” to your TV, DVD player, ref or any other appliance and you can program it to switch on and off. Use your computer at home or when you’re away, use your phone or tablet to manage which devices at home turn on and off. All in real-time.
The demo below showed that with the device, you can actually set an electrical budget, say for a month. And by means of the software, lights and other pre-programmed devices can be turned off when it nears your electric budget.
Innovation #5: The Home Area Network
The prospect of a home totally controlled with the flick of a remote control was quite fascinating as I spoke with the people from Cisco. They walked us through different ways you could control your home in terms of security, entertainment and energy remotely. Your handheld device, whether it is an iPad, iPhone, Androids, etc can be transformed into control devices.
3 ways to open the door: 1) remotely via iPad 2) manually by inputting a code
3) manually with the use of a normal key
|Meralco Appliance Calculator as seen in the App Store|
But aside from this app, there are more apps coming to your device. Take a look…
Having friends in Meralco is a boon. For years now, these friends have given our family advice on many things, including the type of appliances to buy so we use electricity efficiently. My friend Alex would even hand out Meralco brochures that give friendly consumer advice on how to save on energy costs. And I remember instances in friends’ houses when Alex would spend time explaining to us the impact of how we use our appliances on our bills.
addicted connected, I long discovered M.A.C. (Meralco Appliance Calculator) on the Meralco website. In fact, the MAC (I’ve removed the periods just to make it easier as I type this post) has been on their website since 2003. Unfortunately, not many consumers knew about the existence of MAC. And honestly, while I did tinker around with MAC a bit, trying to put in some info on our appliances and usage patterns, I never really got to use it as a real tool for electricity savings.
Meralco is relaunching M.A.C. with new and improved features so that it can really become your electricity budget buddy. Let’s meet M.A.C. –
|Fig. 1 Portal to MAC|
|Fig. 2 Home screen of MAC|
Tabs run across the top (General Appliances, Aircon, Ref, etc.) Clicking on those tabs bring dropdown menus to further narrow down your type of appliance. The average wattage of this appliance is filled out automatically. Put in the number of hours, days and weeks the appliance is used and MAC will calculate for you how much that appliance contributes to your bill per day/week/month. Of course, these are all rough estimates. Wattage can change depending on the brand and model of the appliance. But this gives you an initial feel already which are the energy guzzlers in your home.
|Fig. 3 My Bill Manager|
|Fig. 4 Consumption Manager|
Energy Efficiency Adviser gives you handy tips to save energy consumption.
|Fig. 5 Energy Efficiency Adviser|
Target Bill Amount Estimator lets you set your desired target bill amount, then it tells you just how many kilowatt hours you should consume to stay within that target amount.
|Fig. 6 Target Bill Amount Estimator|