Electricity Woes In PNG Worsen As Blackouts Hit Lae, Madang, Highlands

Aging Ramu hydro power stations causing problems

By Zebedee Giame

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, May 30, 2017) – Lae has been hit again by power outage caused by a technical fault at the aging Ramu hydro power station in Eastern Highlands Province. The fault has also hit Highlands centres and Madang, which rely on some electricity from the Ramu grid to supplement their diesel-generated power. The blackout in Lae started on Sunday and lasted all day and continued yesterday.

Small retailers in the outer suburbs were forced to dispose their defrosting frozen goods at low prices to stop them rotting.

Electricity service provider PNG Power said in a statement yesterday that six-hour blackouts would be experienced in Lae, Madang and the Highlands provinces until further notice. However, power supply to Lae was restored yesterday.

It confirmed that its officers had been attending to “a failure of machines” at the Ramu hydro station, while heavy load shedding was carried out on the Ramu grid following an unplanned outage at the weekend.

PNG Power acting call centre manager James Wila, in a statement, said the company was getting fuel delivered to the gas turbine at the Lae Port, which would be supplying the power to the Ramu hydro station to help start the machines there.

Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Alan McLay said yesterday the daily blackouts have become the norm again.

“In 2016 we expected an improvement to the power problems in Lae, however, it did not happen,” he said.

He said the new 26 megawatt General Electric gas turbine generator that PNG Power installed at Lae Port in January last year, operated for about seven months before it stopped working.

“This generator did not reach its full capacity because it was fueled by diesel, with an output of about 17 megawatts only,” Mr MacLay said.

“We did expect that negotiations by PNG Power Limited (PPL) to construct the Ramu 2 power station at Yonki dam would be completed by now,” Mr McLay said.

According to Mr McLay, the Ramu 2 station was estimated to generate more than 200 megawatts of electricity into the Ramu grid.

Only last week PNG Power apologised for the power outage in the Highlands provinces of Western Highlands, Jiwaka and Chimbu.

The faults were located at Chuave, where a tree had fallen onto the power line and another about 29km away from Himitovi sub-station that prevented the line from closing.

Electricity supply was restored when the fault was located and fixed.

Currently, Pauanda hydro power station located in Western Highlands, can only supply 4Mw of electricity to only one feeder in Mt Hagen.

Last weekend PNG Power announced it was facing generation capacity issues with its thermal power station on Buka Island, Bougainville, which is affecting power supply to its customers.

Two generator sets at the Kubu power station went offline due to mechanical faults experienced.

One of the generators is a leased machine, which was brought in to assist the power capacity issue in Buka.

As of Sunday afternoon, the leased unit was restored and has reduced the load shedding requirements within Buka, Sohano Island and Kokopau, PNG Power acting chief executive officer Alex Oa said in a statement yesterday.

Other spare parts for the generator sets were being flown over from Port Moresby, and Buka’s power supply was being restored yesterday.

PNG Post-Courier
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