BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - CITIZENS and residents in St. Kitts will likely face more power outages during this month, owing to the continued power capacity problem facing the St. Kitts Electricity Company.
Energy Minister Konirs Maynad, who is currently attending the Caribbean Telecommunications Union/ICT meeting in Nassau, Bahamas, reminded that the SKELC had installed a nameplate capacity of 48.9 MW of power, which allows for that level of power generation when it is fully operational.
However, they are not operating at that level, instead at half of that generation.
In a written statement, the Minister explained that the company has been challenged by the fact that it is only operating at the minimum power generation.
“The challenge for SKELEC is that over the past couple of years and in particular, over the past couple of months, SKELEC has been operating with only enough functioning capacity to narrowly meet the Island’s peak power demand of about 26MW. For instance, in August of 2022, SKELEC had a maximum available capacity of around 27.8 MW which is just slightly above the Island’s peak power demand. This translates to a reality that if one or two of these remaining operational generators go out of service due to a fault or for maintenance, the ability for SKELEC to meet the peak power demand is compromised and, therefore, results in power outages,” Maynard explained.
Now, the problem has been exacerbated with the failure of several generators, including one that has been operating for 15 years.
While speaking recently on ZIZ, General Manager of SKELEC, Clement Williams explained that a problem occurred last Saturday (Sept. 3) on one of the company’s generators, adding that “we had no choice but to start a load shedding exercise because our capacity had been reduced significantly below what our averaghade demand is”.
That had resulted in a number of areas facing periodical power outages in order for the company to not overload other generators until the problem was remidied.
“Now the average demand for the island of St. Kitts, right now, is about 25 to 26 megawatts. After the failure on Saturday, we went down to as low as 20 megawatts of available capacity. Now, this is about 50 percent of the weighted capacity of the plant, and you can see [that] 20 is less than 25. So, therefore, we have to shed five megawatts of energy,” Williams explained.
Corporate Communications Officer at SKELEC, Patrice Harris recently indicated that the load shedding exercise could continue for the remainder of the month to facilitate the recovery efforts of the company to meet the power demand.
Meanwhile, Maynard sought to provide further details on the power generation challenges facing SKELEC, explaining that: “The situation is made further vulnerable because of the 27.8 MW capacity SKELEC had in August 2022, 3.4 MW of the power was being supplied by containerized standby generators that are not designed to be running 24 hours a day and for extended periods.”
He also pointed out that “because SKELEC lacks any excess power capacity, regular timely maintenance cannot be adequately pursued. This overuse inevitably leads to constant breakdowns. Consequently, I am advised that over the weekend, a 15-year-old 3.9 MW capacity generator went out of service due to a fault which can take up to three (3) months to repair. Also, over the weekend, there were additional faults that developed on some of the standby generators. To compound the issue further, at present SKELEC is awaiting a replacement part for a 23-year-old 6.1 MWgenerator with an estimated time for completion of repairs of at least four (4) months. SKELEC also still has within its fleet a 35-year-old generator with nameplate capacity of 3.5 MW that is presently out of service for maintenance. As a result, SKELEC is now operating at only around 50% capacity”.
The new Cabinet is seeking to alleviate the problems in the short term; and according to Maynard, who joined Cabinet to receive an update on Monday, SKELEC laid out several short term recommendations to deal with the challenges.
1. Repairs on some of the containerized standby generators by SKELEC maintenance crew. Estimated time of completion is a few days. Commendation must be extended to the various SKELEC teams who continue to work tirelessly around the clock during this particular period.
2. Repairs on some other containerized standby generators by specialized technicians of the manufacturer of the units. Arrangements are being made to fly-in the technicians.
3.A combination of rental and purchase of additional Standby Generators such that the generators are not overused but can be adequately rotated to provide additional power capacity while repairs and maintenance are conducted on other units.
The Minister is expected to provide further details on the way forward for the company upon his return to the Federation.