PINCHED SAIPAN UTILITY ORDERS ROLLING BLACKOUTS

News Release

Commonwealth Utilities Corp. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Saipan, CMNI Jan. 28, 2008

Due to limited customer collections and budget restrictions at the Commonwealth Utilities Corp., existing fuel supplies are being stretched and fewer gallons of fuel have been delivered to the smaller or supplemental power plants — Power Plant II in Lower Base and Power Plant IV in Puerto Rico.

These power plants are used during peak customer demand or when bigger generators undergo maintenance at the primary power plant.

Limited and rotating outages began just after 5 a.m. on Monday in Susupe, Chalan Kanoa, San Jose, and Garapan when fuel supplies were exhausted at the Puerto Rico plant.

As customer demand for energy increased on Monday morning when schools, the government and private businesses opened, the power plants could not keep pace with public demand, causing an additional outage on Saipan’s northern grid from Tanapag to Marpi, coupled with an outage on the electrical grid for Capital Hill and Kagman.

After two hours, those grids were brought back on line, and CUC shared the energy shortage burden with other customers -- trading the outages for the Middle Road grid, Feeder 3, and As Lito, Koblerville, and San Antonio, Kiya 2.

When those grids had been down for two hours, the outages again rotated to Dandan, San Vicente, the airport area and Navy Hill.

The only grid or area that did not experience a limited or two-hour outage was at the Commonwealth Health Center.

CUC has been delivering 25,000 gallons fewer of diesel oil to the Puerto Rico Plant IV and using this facility only in emergencies or when demand for energy is critically high.

This facility, however, was used more than usual over the weekend when maintenance was required at the primary power plant on a base load or larger generator.

On Saturday evening, a primary generator in the main power plant was taken out of production for emergency maintenance because water leaked into the oil system.

As this maintenance continued through Sunday, the Puerto Rico power plant was heavily utilized and its fuel supplies were exhausted.

Although requests and payment for fuel were facilitated early Monday morning, Mobil Oil Guam did not approve delivery until approximately 12 noon.

By 12:30, the Puerto Rico power plant was operational and only then was electricity restored.

What was different with these Monday outages is that two electrical grids had to be taken off line simultaneously — the entire grids had no power. Critical areas of operation were without power, such as the courts, the prison, schools, and tourist districts.

In typical rotating outage schedules, CUC is frequently able to maintain electricity for these customers, but not on Monday. The demand for power far exceeded the generation capacity and fuel supplies.

In addition to limited diesel fuel for Power Plant IV, Power Plant 1 also lacked lube oil supplies being 90,000 barrels short on Monday morning.

Shell Marianas made an extra delivery in short order, enabling the mechanics to rush maintenance of the primary generation units in that plant.

All power was restored by 1:15 on Monday afternoon.

Conservation and timely payment of utility bills are advised to reduce the overall burden of fuel purchases and energy demands.

CUC also reminds customers that every time the power is out anywhere, water services are also affected. It takes power to operate the water well pumps and treatment stations.

A two-hour power outage typically results in reduced pressure but the system will stabilize with three to four hours after electricity is restored.

In some higher elevation areas, or in huge water well fields, such as the airport, this can also mean troubled services the following day with the hours of delivery reduced if all wells were shut down during an outage.

An outage in the airport area for example, can greatly impact the Chalan Kanoa or Susupe area the next day.

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