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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO (July 30, 2002 – Samoa News)—The Executive Director of the American Samoa Power Authority (ASPA), Abe Malae, is the new chairman for the regional Pacific Power Association (PPA).

Malae was recently bestowed the chiefly title of Utu.

Malae’s two-year appointment to head the PPA was made during the 11th annual meeting of the association held recently in Nadi, Fiji. It attracted 120 participants from the around the globe.

Malae was vice chairman last year and took over the chairmanship early this year when the representative from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) resigned as chairman.

American Samoa hosted the meeting in 1990 that established the PPA. The first annual meeting was held the following year in Saipan.

PPA is one of the few regional organizations that caters to both Insular Areas (U.S.) and foreign countries and territories (including all the French territories).

The organization is made up of 25 active electric utilities and 42 allied members (who are suppliers to the utilities).

Malae said yesterday that PPA has been "successful in helping utilities in the region solve their common problems."

"Before that, each utility was on its own. Many times, a utility would try to solve a problem that another utility had already solved before," said Malae.

"PPA is gradually being recognized by donor agencies as an excellent avenue for promoting their interests in the strengthening of the energy sector through power utilities," Malae added.

Fiji's Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, officially opened the Nadi meeting on Wednesday under the theme "A Generation of Generation."

Pacific Nius Online quotes Qarase saying during the opening of the meeting that the Fiji government is re-evaluating electricity charges and delivery to villages and rural settlements.

"It always seemed to me to be unjust that villagers who have little income are expected to contribute to the cost of their local power schemes when the same demands are not placed on those in urban areas," he said.

"It is pleasing that the power utilities are getting together in this environment of cooperation to address the issues collectively for the good of their people and nation," he said.

His government is now looking at establishment of about 20,000 solar home systems in villages and settlements. This also includes exploring possibilities for more hydropower, and solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy and generators fueled by coconut oil.

Other speakers at the opening were Malae and Mr. Joe Mar, Chairman of the Fiji Electric Authority (FEA).

The meeting focused on a number of issues such as bench marking performance, customer service, climate change and project management.

Benchmarking exercises are a useful tool during the PPA meeting, where the utility providers look at a string of performance ratios (including operational and financial) and compare them to world standards.

Mr. Peter Smiles gave interesting presentations on bench marking and customer services in the region.

For example, this year the PPA looked at the index for outages (SAIDI) with the average Pacific electric outage index 624 of minutes last year compared to American Samoa's average outage index of 185 minutes for the same time period.

"When you have these benchmarks, they force you to scrutinize your operations, thereby improving weak areas by adopting the best practices," Malae explained. "If you don't have benchmarks, then it's just business as usual."

"From now on, we have to compare our performance against world and regional standards, utilizing predetermined benchmarks," Utu pointed out.

Mr. Azar N. Hosien, President of Microsearch International, presented a paper on "Strategies for Improving the Economic Performance of Development Programs in the Public Sector," which focused on project management and implementation.

A practical presentation on climate change was given by Ms. Evelyn Browning-Garris. It covered the history of climate change and where we fit in as a region, which was useful for all in attendance to help prepare for changing weather conditions and what causes them.

This year was also the first year of the Pacific Power Engineers conference, which allowed local engineers to interact and solve problems with their regional counterparts.

Suppliers of new and innovative products were also on hand to display and demonstrate the best and latest technologies and products available in the market place to deal with problems of generating and distributing power to the public.

For example, ASPA officials found out that there is a product currently in the market that has been proven in Hawai‘i to reduce termite infestation on power poles.

This product will help ASPA reduce the amount of "change outs" of its power poles, which Utu said costs a lot of money and is also a nuisance to customers, because power has to be shut-down to change the power poles.

Last year, Malae said ASPA had 78 change outs out of 13,000 power poles.

ASPA engineer Ted Leiato gave a presentation on debit meters at ASPA, something that is new to other utility providers in the region.

The Honorable Tomasi Vuetilovoni, Fiji Minister for Commerce, Business Development and Investment, opened the trade show, where 24 vendors displayed their products and shared the benefits with the engineers and managers present at the conference.

The meeting closed on Friday, July 26, with a conference dinner at the Mocambo Hotel.

Next year's PPA meeting is set for Palau and the benchmark at that meeting is to "come up with ways to be less dependent on oil" and share efficiency improvements and consequent reductions in line losses and losses (parasitic loads) in the power plant."

Items from the SAMOA NEWS, American Samoa's daily newspaper, may not be republished without permission. To contact the publisher, send e-mail to

For additional reports from the Samoa News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Samoa News.

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