How Meralco is silently spending billions to fight climate change


PHILIPPINES – The sweltering heat of recent months took its toll not only on the millions who live and work in Meralco’s sprawling franchise area but on power distribution equipment as well, resulting in some power interruptions during the summer. The sharp surge in consumption of residential customers due to work from home arrangement and community quarantine exacerbated the situation.

But that would gradually change and may eventually become a thing of the past as Meralco shifts to an environment-friendlier alternative to the mineral oil used as insulating liquid for its distribution transformers.

Data studied by Meralco suggests that using natural ester oil as insulating liquid allows for higher loading capacities of distribution transformers which is crucial during summer months when demand for electricity is higher. The plant-based oil has higher “fire point” of 360 degrees Celsius compared with 180 degrees Celsius for mineral oil, which will make distribution transformers less of a fire hazard. Data also showed ester oil could extend distribution transformers’ useful life.

Since natural ester oil comes from vegetables, it is also readily biodegradable—a quality that meets Meralco’s goal of going greener and pushing for sustainability.

Starting this year, the country’s largest power distributor with over seven million customers will retrofill with plant-based ester oil the fluid used to insulate existing distribution transformers.

Meralco plans to spend billions of pesos through 2030 to fill with ester oil more than 180,000 distribution transformers. The move would make these equipment run more efficiently, operate more safely, and be eco-friendly.

“Using natural ester oil as insulating liquid in our distribution transformers instead of mineral oil will allow us to extend the life of these crucial equipment as well as do away with using mineral oil that is harder to dispose,” said Ronnie L. Aperocho, Meralco Senior Vice President and Head of Networks.

After his appointment as Meralco Chief Executive Officer in 2019, Atty. Ray C. Espinosa underscored that stewardship of the environment and sustainability are among the top priorities of the company that distributes electricity to an area that accounts for around half of the Philippines’ gross domestic product.

At this year’s stockholders meeting, Espinosa unveiled Meralco’s plan to source more electricity from renewables, revamp the company’s vehicle fleet to use more electric vehicles, and to use extensively plant-based oil for distribution transformers.

“Going forward, one hundred percent of our new distribution transformers will use plant-based natural ester oil, making these assets 99% recyclable and biodegradable,” he told shareholders.