PHILIPSBURG–The widespread load-shedding around the country in the past days is expected to be over later today, Wednesday, after utilities company GEBE repairs the damaged part of its “Engine 19,” which encountered a turbo charger failure on Sunday.
GEBE Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kenrick Chittick told reporters at a hastily-convened press conference on Tuesday that the large engine #19, which supplies 11 megawatts of electricity, had gone down on Sunday and the supplier had been asked to send a specific part. However, the wrong part was sent, so the engine could not be repaired earlier as anticipated.
The correct part is expected to arrive today around 9:30am and once it arrives at the power plant technicians are expected to take four to six hours to install it.
Chittick said load-shedding had become necessary when Engine #19 went down, while the medium-size Engine #16, which supplies eight megawatts of electricity, already had been out of commission for several weeks for a major overhaul. This resulted in the company being unable to meet the current demand for electricity, resulting in load-shedding.
He explained that GEBE’s frequency has to remain at 50 hertz and its voltage has to be 12,500 volts at all times. If these two factors are not stable, it will result in an unstable grid and this can result in damage to people’s equipment. Hence, if the demand is higher than the supply, load has to be shed.
Chittick assured that the issue with Engine #19 was not due to lack of maintenance. “It’s not lack of maintenance for sure. We have a maintenance schedule where we do our best to keep up to par. Some maintenance is shifted here and there, but maintenance is up to date,” he said.
Regarding Engine #16, the company is awaiting the parts so that this engine can be up and running again.
Chittick said that while the company had attempted to keep the load-shedding at two hours per outage, some areas had been out for longer periods. “Unfortunately outages happen. It can happen that something goes wrong. I am not saying that we are not doing something to avoid it,” he said.
GEBE has been lagging behind in its investments, he noted, and the company currently has engines in service that are 25 to 30 years old, for which parts are difficult to obtain.
As for the future, Chittick said the installation of the company’s new engine #20 is still on schedule to come online by mid-December. This is expected to help with a more reliable supply of electricity. The company also has plans to purchase a new engine – Engine #21 – in 2017 to further assist with a more stable supply of electricity.
Chittick noted that the new engine’s coming online in December does not mean that there will not be any power interruptions, as things can go wrong with engines that can result in interruptions.
Also at Tuesday’s press conference were GEBE’s Chief Operations Officer (COO) Veronica Jansen-Webster and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Iris Arrindell.
Arrindell urges customers to call the numbers 544-3100 or 542-2213 if they have queries after 11:00pm. She said GEBE’s toll-free number 1-844-432-3213 does not always work as the company would like and is not usually operational after 11:00pm, as calls are rerouted to the power plant.