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By Ferdie de la Torre

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, July 11) – The power outages now in effect on Saipan may soon be extended after the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands government advised the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. that it couldn’t afford to continue paying for the monthly fuel deliveries.

This developed as CUC announced yesterday that it would start implementing today six-day rotating power outages on the island to conserve fuel and until funding becomes available.

Meanwhile, CUC spokesperson Pamela Mathis said that overheating in the cooling system at Engine No. 5 caused power outages yesterday afternoon in Lower Base, Sadog Tasi, Garapan, China Town, Gualo Rai, and Quartermaster Road.

Acting CUC executive director Anthony C. Guerrero said that, following Friday's increase in fuel prices and low collections, they will not be able to purchase the needed amount of fuel supply, stretching existing reserves and likely buying less fuel until sources of money are identified.

"The least efficient generators are being shut down, and this means that the power plants will produce less electricity, causing rotating power outages," said Guerrero in a statement to the media.

Guerrero said their collections are low during certain periods of the month as most customers do not pay on regular due dates but rather wait until the day before disconnection.

"Rather than having a steady cash flow to purchase intermediate fuel supplies, the utility has no money when it's most needed," he said. "All customers are sharing the burden of power outages, though we aim to keep them at only two-hour intervals so businesses can work around the schedules and homeowners have minimal adjustments."

CUC determines the time and location of outages by matching energy shortages at a specific time of day to the villages that consume that amount of energy.

The schedule changes every other day so that no one suffers the same each day, except for the central government, which will remain consistent each day from 10am to noon.

Guerrero said they would advise customers this week whether additional fuel deliveries will be cut in the future, which would result in broader outages.

Customers, he said, also need to know that any engine failures also result in emergency outages that are not listed on the power outage schedule.

In emergencies, schedules are provided to radio stations, he added.

With respect to water supplies, CUC explained that, while low pressure results for most villages during a power outage, customers in Tanapag and San Roque may experience no water during the outage.

There are 130 water wells on the island. The pumping of water from the ground needs electricity.

Guerrero said that, whenever the power is out, customers must expect low water pressure.

To minimize water outages, the utility institutes short, two-hour power outages, he added.

July 11, 2006

Saipan Tribune

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