New technology has Meralco worried about disruption

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New technology has Meralco worried about disruption
Tesla’s new Powerwall and other disruptive technologies has Meralco focused on innovation in order to maintain its position

MANILA, Philippines – New developments in battery technology has Manila Electric Company (Meralco) worried about its dominant position in the country and could drive it to introduce similar technology to the country.

Tesla’s recent launch of Powerwall, a cost-effective home battery that stores electricity charged from solar panels or when utility rates are low, has Meralco particularly worried.

The American firm, famous for its electric vehicles, bills it as a game changer as it offers consumers independence from the utility grid.

Energy experts said these storage batteries are expected to solve a problem – reliably storing energy from renewable sources – which the power industry has so far failed at.

When asked how these storage batteries can affect the way Meralco does business in the country which, for now, relies heavily on grid power, Meralco’s top official expressed concern. 

“We were quite concerned about the Tesla announcement recently. The ability of solar panels to be stored in batteries could disrupt traditional business model of Meralco,” said Meralco Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

Meralco, he added, could also offer the same in the future.

“We may have to. If we don’t, we may get disrupted and we will run out of business,” Pangilinan said during Meralco’s Technology & Innovation Summit held on June 26, Friday.

“If that were to happen and, one day it will happen in a very economic way…Who would have ever thought that the monopoly that Meralco has could someday run out of business but as a default supplier of electricity,” he added.

TESLA POWERWALL. Launched in the US on April 30 of this year, the Powerwall envisioned to put electricity at the hands of consumers and will be initially priced at $3500 (P157,867). International rollout is expected next year. File photo.

Big data 

During the summit, Meralco Senior Vice President Alfredo Panlilio emphasized how the electric industry needs to embrace technology. 

“Technology has always been a change driver but with that comes disruption. Traditional businesses die out or are forced to change their model as new technology innovations re-shape the way we do things and open up new possibilities,” he said.

The electricity industry is no exception, he added. 

“A new wave of disruptive technologies is upon us. This includes distributed generation and the emergence of internet technologies,”Panililio noted.

Meralco officials present during the summit said that the utility firm would develop its own algorithm for big data, with an end view of being able to analyze its customers better. 

“We have to get into big data. There’s a lot of raw information within Meralco itself. Raw data that can be gathered and processed and curated, to be able to know better the consumers. All of us, when you use your cellphones, leave digital footprint, that sometimes is called digital exhaust,” said Pangilinan.

Pangilinan added that last week’s summit would help Meralco better grasp what the latest technology can offer and thus make sure that Meralco remains at the forefront. 

The summit also featured top officials from the energy and IT industries, including IBM, Siemens, OPower and Dell. –


Magnetic storm image from shutterstock 

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