St. Kitts Continues to Deal With Power Outages

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts –Energy and Public Utilities Minister, Konris Maynard, is urging consumers to bear with the St. Kitts Electricity Company’s (SKELEC) as the efforts continue to deal with the power outages on the island.

powpantPower Plant in St. Kitts (File Photo)Maynard, who is on official business overseas, said in a statement that he had discussed the situation with Cabinet on Monday “as the SKELEC management provided an update on the present situation and possible short-term solutions.

“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.”

Maynard said that SKELEC has an installed nameplate capacity of 48.9 MW of power and 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 … 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 said 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 months to repair.”

He said also, over the weekend, there were additional faults that developed on some of the standby generators and 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 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.”

Maynard said that 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.

He said similar investments in fixed capacity generation should have been made in recent years but were not “despite many representations by SKELEC to do so over the last seven 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,” said Maynard, who took up the portfolio following the August 5 general elections that was won by the opposition St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP).

Maynard said he was seeking 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.

He said 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”.

Maynard said that over the medium to long term, as the authorities embark on the transformation to renewable energy “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.

“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,” he added.