CAMELCO customer service is getting better – still a lot of work ahead
CAMELCO, the Camiguin Electricity Cooperative, serves as a sample for many similar coops in the Philippines. All these public utility cooperatives are the last step before the customer. They all fight with wooden swords against windmills. These are politicians, too many government agencies and the 4 big power suppliers. Read here more about this network.
Where the “juice” comes from
Camiguin is a magic island in the southern Bohol sea. The island is known for its rather unspoiled nature and its dive spots. Camiguin is also the second smallest province of the Philippines. But when it comes to electrical power, the island has also one of the most vulnerable electrical networks.
CAMELCO gets its electrical supplies from northern Mindanao by one or two undersea cables. Only few people know about the number and the state of this cable / these cables. It is kept secret as is the weight of HM Queeen Elisabeth.
The CAMELCO network
From Liong in the south 2 feeder lines go around the island. Feeder 1 is shorter but has a heavy load because of all government buildings, 2 rather large resorts and a shopping mall. The longer Feeder 2 line passes through mainly rural places. It has only one resort as its heaviest consumer. The two feeder lines meet downtown Mambajao near the Fatima College.
From these two feeder lines, many smaller lines go uphill everywhere to supply the hill-side barangays and barrios with electricity. Most of these electrical lines go through woods and coconut plantations. Unfortunately clearing of these lines had been neglected for many years. The principle had been: Repair instead of maintenance and prevention.
Brown-outs and black-outs
While the tourism office speaks of Camiguin, the island born of fire, locals call it the island of 1000 brown-outs. Among the reasons of these power interruptions are three main origins.
- Mindanao has not enough power in the network. So they cut peripheral provinces to maintain power in the cities.
- During rains and storms many trees fall on the local power lines.
- CAMELCO has to cut power for safe maintenance works.
The lack of power in the Mindanao grid (1) shows up in Camiguin with an increasing loss of voltage and frequency. These are the classical brown-outs. With the modern LED lamps you first encounter flickering and then black. With the old style filament lamps one could see the brightness decreasing. From this effect comes the expression brown-out.
A brown-out can also happen when wet branches and leaves (i.e. banana) make a short circuit between two wires.
I think black-outs do not need any explanation.
CAMELCO Customer Information
Until end of 2017, CAMELCO had no really working customer information service. Planned interruptions were announced over car-mounted speakers on the circumferential road. Those living a hundred meters from the road didn’t get the information. The trick of many people here was to know the cellphone number of the guard in front of the CAMELCO main office. This guard could often give some valuable information.
Then in 2018, CAMELCO started to provide us customers with pro-active information on their website and on Facebook.
The website isn’t very useful for alerts, but the Facebook page is rather useful and up-to-date.
Difficult to decrypt
A standard message looks like this one:
Looks good! But do you understand where on the island power will be cut? I needed some time to decrypt. The keyword was “Feeder 2”. Tell me, did you know “Feeder 2” before reading this article? Better would be a simple map like this one:
The red line shows the region of power outage. And if you live uphill from this red line, you won’t have juice either.
A more complicated case
Do you know where Mercy Village is? I read this name the first time. Cabua-an is known to many locals but not to everybody. And Leo Lasacar’s residency is only known to neighbours and hard-core insiders. I tried to create a map also for this rather local case:
Even after more than 11 years on Camiguin island, I had some difficulties to locate the places.
It would be so easy …
Creating a map is so easy. All you need is a map file and a free simple graphics program. The map file I can send by e-mail to CAMELCO as a 1326 x 1148 pixel file. (Please leave a comment.) Using Microsft’s Paint or Paint 3D is so simple. For the first map you will need maybe 10 minutes. Afterwards you could do it in one or two minutes. If needed, I can show your staff how to paint.
CAMELCO, please continue your progress
As written above, CAMELCO recently made nice progresses in customer information. But there is still a lot to do. Please do not ask a technician or an attorney to write. Just ask a secretary, for everybody can understand. Publish these most important points on your website and on Facebook.
- Create maps that clearly indicate the zone of power interruption.
- More transparency! Inform your customers clearly about the Mindanao undersea cables and the diesel generator.
- Explain clearly the 20+ plus points on your electricity bill, without writing a Ph.D. diploma work.
- Add more redundancy to your network. Either parallel lines or cross-island lines.