Montserrat’s power generation issues are not new. However, Montserrat Utilities Limited, the island’s lone power company seemed to have been caught by surprise as it’s aged generators failed and plunged the nation into darkness late Monday.
The South side of the island was without electricity for more than 40 hours finally receiving relief on Wednesday at 6PM when they got their turn at scheduled power. By this time, residents and business owners had taken to social media to complain of the lack of communication from MUL and no schedule for restoring power.
According to Colin Fergus, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Communication, Works, Energy and Labour and chair of the MUL board, MUL’s technical team is working flat out to stabilise the island’s power supply. He said during a statement on ZJB Radio Montserrat on Wednesday afternoon that the power plant is down to one operating generator.
The #7 generator is currently the only one in operation. With generators 3, 4, 5, and 6 out of service. Efforts are being made, he said, to bring #6 online.
However, the generator is experiencing synchronicity issues, which has been an ongoing problem with the new generators installed in the power plant.
The official said they are considering various options for resolving the problem, ahead of the arrival of a generator later this year. One option is to acquire a temporary generator.
The 1MW solar farm is also contributing between 800 and 900 KW during the day, which is about 40 to 50% of the daytime peak demand.
According to reports, the generators which have long since passed their shelf life are awaiting parts which were delayed. Generator #5 was to be retired but efforts are being made to restore it using parts from #4.
There is concern that the #7 generator is bearing the brunt of the load. This generator was also scheduled to be overhauled but this cannot be done until a replacement has been sourced and is operational.
MUL officials are hopeful that they will be able to get #5 restored and back in operation. To be followed by #3 and #6.
Last November, the UK Government provided Montserrat with additional funding to purchase critically needed equipment, including a new 2MW medium speed generator.
On Wednesday afternoon Fergus announced a schedule for loadshedding.
Fortunately for residents and businesses in Brades and surrounding villages, they should remain with 24-hour power unless something happens.
As of Thursday morning at 6AM, the North and South villages will be on four-hour power intervals.
North (Little Bay to Lookout) – 6AM to 10AM
South (Jones Hill/Hill Top to Isles Bay) – 10AM to 2PM
North – 2PM to 6PM
South – 6PM to 10PM
North – 10PM to 6AM
South – 6AM to 10AM
North 10AM to 2PM
South – 2PM to 6PM
North – 6PM to 10PM
South – 10PM to 6AM
Major businesses in Brades (government offices, banks, and supermarkets) are asked to run generators to reduce strain on the national power grid.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, drivers staked out the two gas stations in hopes power will be restored long enough to fill their tanks. The gas pumps require electricity to operate.
Health officials said Wednesday morning that the St John’s health centre has backup generator power. While the health centres in St. Peters and Salem are on solar power. The hospital receives emergency power from the DMCA generator.
Director of Primary Health Care Dr Dorothea Hazel-Blake advised Diabetic patients to ensure their insulin is being stored properly and kept cool. They are encouraged to pick up two ice packs from the St John’s clinic, which can be frozen when there is power and used to keep medicines cool.
All residents are encouraged to ensure food is cooked properly to kill any bacteria that may have been created due to compromised food.
Freeze as much food as possible was also advised.
The power outage is on the heels of loss of broadband and mobile service to the island due to a subsea fibre breakage on Saturday. Most services by Digicel and Flow are now back online.
UPDATE – South lost power two hours into its scheduled 12-hour block on Wednesday night.