CNMI Utility ‘Misleading’ Insular Affairs Chief, Board Member Says

Kia‘aina incorrectly told federally funded Integrated Resource Plan has been approved

By Junhan B. Todiño

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, July 1, 2016) – Contrary to what U.S. Assistant Interior Secretary for Insular Areas Esther Kia’aina was earlier told, the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. has yet to approve the federally funded Integrated Resource Plan or IRP, CUC board member David J. Sablan Jr. said.

“This is misleading,” he added. Kia’aina earlier wrote to CUC acting executive director Gary Camacho, stating: “I am pleased to hear you are using the Integrated Resource Plan to make important decisions regarding the CNMI’s energy-supply options over the long-term. I hope the IRP proves useful in diversifying CUC’s energy generation, reducing dependence on fossil fuels, and reducing the overall cost of electricity.”

She told Camacho that she shared the IRP with the regional administrator and deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in preparation for their catastrophic planning workshop in the CNMI that was held recently.

Kai’aina also said that she would like to better understand the rationale behind CUC’s decision to cancel the bids received during the IRP process.

“It is critically important for the Office of Insular Affairs, FEMA, and other federal agencies working with the CNMI on infrastructure and energy initiatives to work closely on the advancement of such initiatives given the need to leverage funding resources,” she said.

But Sablan said the IRP has not been approved by the board.

Several months ago, he said, he made a motion for the approval of one of the options — diesel engines-convertible to natural gas with heat-recovery systems together with 10 percent of solar energy.

He said this is the path they should take to replace all the old generating units over the course of several years depending on funding sources and CUC’s financial capabilities.

“This plan would include at least a 70 percent reserve capacity with the generators producing electricity at 50 percent efficiency or more. This would be the plan for our engineers to use as their ‘Bible’ in working on the needs of the power division of CUC,” he said.

His motion was voted down, however.

Sablan said the recommendations from Leidos Engineering, which CUC hired to complete the IRP, gave different scenarios of generator units and alternate energy systems.

“I don’t recall the board approving any…of the scenarios presented by Leidos, as the one I recommended was voted down. Instead of addressing the Leidos study which is the IRP, [CUC legal counsel] Mr. [James] Sirok was directed to negotiate a deal with Mobil-Exxon to use some of the oil payments to purchase generators,” Sablan said.

He is asking CUC Board Chairwoman Adelina Roberto and CUC management to tell Kai’aina that the IRP has not been approved yet and is not being used.

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