Posted on 17 February 2017.
by Bennette Roach
In the November 25, 2016 issue, 12 weeks ago TMR’s headline story promised: Regular ‘Electricity Generation’ before Christmas, but with a careful proviso, “Only without unexpected delay problems”. By today temporary generators begin to function, again with the new generating set firmly promised by March 10.
That proviso about unexpected delay was provided by Montserrat Utilities Ltd. (MUL) Manager David Thompson who, just like he had to do this week as we reported last November, responded to queries with numerous apologies and explanations of the now too familiar problems, of engines and alternators simply not keeping up with the continuous need to generate electricity.
One hard-working housewife responding to how things were in Montserrat told her guest, “’current’ issues driving us up a wall here.”
Meanwhile Attorney at Law Jean Kelsick while seeking answers has written to Premier Romeo, calling on him to petition the Governor, “to appoint a commission of inquiry into MUL’s award of the contract and mishandling of the building of the new power station.”
Kelsick noted to the Premier, “Serious questions have also been raised about MUL’s oversight of the execution of the contract and its failure to sack the contractor for a delay now exceeding one and a half years in completing the power station,” pointing out Montserrat continues to “…suffer untold hardship, inconvenience and financial loss.”
It had been expressed before that the standby generators being used while they waited for the new plant to be installed and operating, were short-lived, old, over worked and tired.
At the launch of the new plant project, DFID’s previous in country representative, Kato Kimbugwe in September 2011, explained the dire need for new generating equipment following PS Chambers comment. “Montserrat Utilities Limited is currently operating on five unreliable high speed generating sets, which have very high fuel consumption and a very high maintenance cost.” He added, “the high operating cost is reflected in the cost of electricity to the consumers,” a much talked about topic on every corner and by every consumer in Montserrat.”
Mr. Kato Kimbugwe, DFID’s Programme Representative explained that the containerised diesel sets were not built for permanent operation. He said they were designed for emergency situations and have a normal service expectancy of approximately 10 years. He added that some of the gen-sets were in operation for over 15 years and are in need of being replaced. He noted that the consumers have been affected by frequent power outages that have increased in recent times. Talking about what Kelsick reiterated in his letter to the Premier, he said then: ““….frequent power outages mean increased cost to households and businesses, in terms of equipment failure but more importantly for businesses, a decline in productivity; and significantly Montserrat becomes less attractive for investment at a critical time of its development.”
Breakdown and Outage problems
Manager Thompson had said in November when the problem was not as intense as it had been the past two weeks, ““We have identified a serious fault that would have caused the earlier damage,” cautioning, “Unfortunately, we don’t know if the repair will hold so we have to test it under pressure, before we can risk bringing the generator onto the grid.”
Breakdown of new generator testing
Replacement part needed – must be built
When Christmas came and went with no new generator in operation, the question was asked if the unexpected had materialised, and so it was. TMR had learned that at the point of testing a part that malfunctioned had to be replaced and needed to be built from scratch.
The new power station contractor’s representative and deputy manager of Angelique International Ltd of India confirmed this to ZJB news. “There’s a small component that we are sourcing which is supposed to arrive with an engineer from the engine manufacturer from Belgium. Once that equipment is here we have everything related to the commissioning in order,” he assured.
During the past two weeks when finally, MUL introduced a fixed schedule of load shedding outages across the island the Manager had nothing really new to say except he explained what the problems and efforts being made to correct them.
“OK, the recent outages have been caused by problems with a unit that we’ve rented from Rimco we’ve eventually tracked down that problem to a loose wire hidden within the unit that was fixed,” he said earlier prior to the severe outages, cautioning; “and now the island is back on power and we hope that that fix will obviously hold; there’s (are) no guarantees in this game.”
At that point also, he merely hinted to the ‘unexpected’ problem. “…as I say we still work on the testing and commissioning (referring to the new generating plant), and what’s happened so far is that testing has shown two or three weaknesses in the systems that we’ve had to repair, not repair but strengthen…”
Those weaknesses he mentioned translated in the part, also referred to by deputy manager of Angelique International Ltd of India Mohammed Alzade, that had to be resourced and built new. Mohammed confirmed, “…(the part) we are sourcing which is supposed to arrive with an engineer from the engine manufacturer from Belgium.”
He said, “Once that equipment is here we have everything related to the commissioning in order,” It will replace the faulty component with the new one and we can start conducting some of the tests that are required before we go on the grid.”
After that is done Mohammed also assured: “The test ensures that everything in terms of the alternator is responding to the controllers.”
He added that this is the plan going forward to bring the generating plant into operation, adding, “Once that is in place we would start a reliability run which is a one week run to provide continuous power on to the grid, the, “After this run we would then start relocating some of the existing engines that we have with MUL and start integrating them to the new system.”
“That,” he says, “is the program that we have in mind at the moment.” https://www.themontserratreporter.com/new-deisel-power-plant-done-deal/
The new generating plant debacle
These delays problem began from the failed effort of procuring development and installation of the plant since July 2011 or before, when as Kelsick notes today in his letter, “…Montserratians continue to suffer untold hardship, inconvenience, and financial loss.”
Nearly six years ago the observation was made, highlighted in a front page story, “New Deisel Power Plant – Done Deal (see: https://www.themontserratreporter.com/new-deisel-power-plant-done-deal/). Posted on 08 July 2011. “While there can be no doubt that Montserrat is tired to death of unscheduled power outages like those of Friday morning, the only thing the country fears more than them is a further increase in the surging fuel surcharge that dominates every electricity bill from MUL.”
That had followed this Montserrat officially launches $36 million Power Plant Project in October 2011, (https://www.themontserratreporter.com/montserrat-officially-launches-36-million-power-plant-project/).
It was before then that the talk of the high cost of electricity was a hot topic. There was the former Minister of Communications and Works Charles Kirnon, announcing the over the now over the top start of the already languishing project. “the Department for International Development (DFID), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and government of Montserrat have co-financed a EC$36 million power plant project that will pave the way for a transition to more renewable sources of energy.”
HMG (DFID) had provided some $23 million towards the project with questions going unanswered why another $7 million was required.
The debacle contract
This contract was to construct a power plant with a New 1.5 mw diesel Alternator installed intended to meet the uninterrupted needs of Montserrat and support the advent of geothermal energy. It was awarded to Angelique International Ltd. at a value of $18,326,841.00, just above half the nearest competitor Williams Industries Incorporated and Little Bay Limited, LLC, through its joint venture partners Philadelphia Electrical Equipment Company (PEECO) at $33,100,253. This was after the other bidder had competed in an earlier failed procurement process, which contributed to the early delays of this project getting off the ground.
Mr. Yogesh Gupta for Angelique Int. Ltd. with Peter White for MUL signed the contract which was to begin from December 5, 2013 is to last 504 days to June 1, 2015, but later information said it would start in earnest in January 2014 at a site ‘adjacent to the current power plant’.
It is from that Lawyer Kelsick makes his reference to the serious cases of power outages questioning MUL’s oversight of the execution of the contract and its failure to sack the contractor for a delay now exceeding one and a half years in completing the power station.
Local engineer Deon Weekes is the new generating plant project manager. He told ZJB News this week, that the principal emphasis now was clearly on providing a reliable energy supply to customers. That was from the mid-2000s and a contract which was supposed to begin in earnest in January last year after the project was officially launched in October 2011.
Weekes said they were functioning and aiming to get production going after all the frustration and financial woes, with the March 10 festival activities due to begin then. “Essentially we were working towards as quickly as possible commissioning the engine fully and providing power to the grid. We’re cognisant of the fact that we have a major activity starting around the 10th of March and we’re aiming towards providing reliable energy for that period including the performance online of the new gen-set, confirming waiting at the time for a replacement part.