Utility minister issues statement on SKELEC and power outages

As a matter of public interest, we publish below, the full text of the statement from Minister of Public Utilities, Konris Maynard

In my capacity as Minister with responsibility for Energy and Public Utilities et al, I wish to provide a statement on the present state of the power generation capacity of SKELEC. Upon my return to the Federation, in due course, I intend to present a comprehensive report on the overall state of affairs of SKELEC and Energy in our Federation.

SKELEC has an installed nameplate capacity of 48.9 MW of power. This means that if all the generators installed at the power plant were fully functional and operating optimally, the plant would be able to produce close to 48.9 MW of power.

This, however, is not the case. 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 26 MW.

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.

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. Additionally, 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 MW generator 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 name plate 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.

Unfortunately, the last time there was any major investment in new power generation of fixed capacity generators designed to run constantly, 24 hours a day, was in 2010 and 2011 and before that, between 2007 and 2009. Similar investments in fixed capacity generation should have been made in recent years but were not.

This is despite many representations by SKELEC to do so over the last seven (7) years in order to continue the plan of continuous upgrade of the power plant to meet the growing power needs.

Instead, between 2017 to 2019, smaller investments were made in containerized standby generators that are not designed to run 24 hours a day but eventually had to be used to run extended periods of time because of the aforementioned reasons.

Consequently, this balancing act of lack of proper investments, insufficient available capacity, aging of some generators, faults, and maintenance or delayed maintenance has led to frequent outages across the island.

The latest faults over the weekend at the Power Station now require SKELEC to conduct load shedding exercises as efforts are made to restore generation capacity to at least meet the peak demand.

I, therefore, seek the continued support, understanding and patience of the general public in the circumstances as the new administration works with SKELEC to address these critical issues in the short term and over the medium to long term.

As I am overseas on Government Business, I joined Monday morning’s session of Cabinet via Zoom as the SKELEC management provided an update on the present situation and possible short-term solutions which include:

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.

  • 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.
  • 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.

With all things going well with the in-house repairs, SKELEC hopes that from today they can reduce the number of load shedding exercises originally required.

In addition, once all things go well with product availability and favorable shipping times with the other interventions previously mentioned, SKELEC is optimistic that the remaining load shedding exercises can end within a month.

Over the medium to long term, as we embark on our transformation to renewable energy such as Solar, Wind, and Geothermal, it is imperative that during this transformation and for some time beyond, our Power Station has the fixed generation capacity to optimally meet the peak demand at any given time without interruptions to our energy supply.

SKELEC’s main power plant

Our economic growth depends heavily on our country’s ability to provide reliable and affordable energy. I am confident that upon review of the available fixed generation options Cabinet will support the best option that is in line with our medium to long-term Energy goals.

I once again seek the nation’s support, understanding, and patience during this period as your new administration diligently and thoughtfully work to transform our Energy landscape over the short, medium, and long term.

Please stay tuned to SKELEC media postings for the most up-to-date information.

Thank you and may God bless our Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

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