By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter
(Basseterre, St. Kitts)”In the face of mounting frustration and criticism over the management of the St. Kitts electricity supply and the frequent power outages, Minister of Public Works and Utilities, Earl Assim Martin, said officials were working towards having a reliable source of electricity. Minister Martin spoke at a recent press conference at the Needsmust Power Plant to inform the country about the most recent developments with respect to the ongoing work at the power plant to restore the electricity to full capacity after almost 50 percent of it was lost in the fire of Oct. 2 that destroyed two main generators. As a result of the fire and the damage to the power station’s two largest engines, the Mirrlees 8MB 430 and the Mirrlees 12 MB 430, the country had been experiencing load shedding for weeks. However, Minister Martin announced at the press conference that they were now operating with a sufficient capacity of about 30 megawatts as a result of the rental of generators and the fixing of the Mirrlees 8 MB. Thirty megawatts is enough to meet consumer demands at peak hours. There is now no more need for load shedding, he said. Shortly after announcing that load shedding had ended, a problem at the power plant resulted in a power outages that affected the entire country for hours, causing people to question the minister’s remarks about the end load shedding. A government press release dated November 18 and entitled “Government to Improve Security at Electrical Installations” stated that Cabinet convened a special session on Monday, Nov. 17, to review the disturbing series of power outages. A team from the Department of Electricity, headed by the Chief Electrical Engineer, and consisting of the Transmission and Distribution Engineer, the Operations Engineer, Systems protection engineer and Power Station Engineer, updated Cabinet on the weekend outages. The release stated that the team of engineers was able to decipher the problem that led to the power outages last weekend. The Chief Electrical Engineer cited negligence on the part of staff members responsible for system protection matters at the power station as a reason for the outages. Unauthorized changes had been made in the “earth fault setting” but it was not clear who made the setting changes. These changes in settings precipitated the development of electrical faults which led to the tripping of the generators.” As a consequence of the recent incidents and other past incidents, disciplinary action was taken in respect of two power station officers (including one supervisor) who have been sent on leave by management, the press release said. The release also stated that security is to be immediately increased at outlying sub-stations and the schedule for the upgrade of the power plant protection system has been adjusted to take into account the serious nature of the current electrical outages and their inconvenience to consumers. “We are working towards having a reliable source of electricity. That is why we have gotten the engineers who came in earlier clock when we had the fire and we were able to get the Mirrlees 8 MB on stream to make sure that we have a reliable source of electricity. Secondly, we have sought the rental of generators to add the additional capacity to have our capacity up to make sure we have a reliable supply,” Minister Martin said. “We have been working with the company in Sandy Point to make sure that they have whatever technical assistance we can give them, to have their engines on board. Our engineers have been going down there and working with them to make sure that we have a reliable source of electricity,” he said. “We have to make sure that there is a reliable source of electricity and that is my concern at this present moment. That is why these men have been working day and night, that is why the government have been ensuring that they put the necessary resources in place to this ministry to make sure that we have a reliable source of electricity,” he said. Minister Martin called the electricity situation over the last month that came about as a result of the power plant fire as “unfortunate” and said that they were able to get the generators re-routed from Aruba, who was having a power problem, to St.Kitts because they had the financial resources to do that.” He said that they were able to mobilize people out of Dominica and St.Maarten to work on installing an electrical panel that was destroyed on one of the generators. Many people are skeptical and feel that the power outages have been going on for years. They often speak of their many household appliances that have been damaged or completely destroyed and the inconveniences that they have suffered. “The proof of the pudding is in its eating,” one electricity consumer said.
Martin Promises Reliable Source of Electricity Amid Public Skepticism
By Lesroy W. Williams Observer Reporter