Electricity chief reveals reason for power outage

An island-wide power outage on Upolu on Monday was triggered by a massive lightning.

The Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.) C.E.O., Tologata Tile Tuimaleali’ifano, said it was “an act of God” and it was beyond their control.

The power outage after 3pm on Monday lasted for close to four hours, with Tologata telling a press conference on Thursday, there was nothing E.P.C. staff could do as the Fiaga power station was struck by massive lightning during a thunderstorm.

“On behalf of the board of directors and management of E.P.C., I would like to convey our sincere apologies for the power outage that happened on Monday about 3:15pm in the afternoon,” he said. 

“It is something beyond our control, the act of God and we apologise for any inconvenience caused to businesses as well as our domestic consumers.”

Tologata said that there will be no compensation made to affected businesses or consumers as the power outage was beyond their control.

“It is clearly defined under our E.P.C. Act that lightning and thunderstorm are acts of God.”

The EPC can only be held accountable for power outages if work by their staff triggered the power blackout, he added. 

“When we designed the protection system at Fiaga, we took into consideration any lightning or thunderstorm but what we had on Monday was beyond our normal circumstances,” he said. 

“It was very excessive so now our engineers are working on looking at the protection, if we have to install more protection systems to protect our generators and power equipment, from future lightning and thunderstorms.”

The massive lightning strike on Monday led to two E.P.C. generators going offline, according to Tologata. 

“At the moment, two of our big generators at Fiaga are not available for commercial operation at the moment, due to the incident so only two generators are operating at Fiaga plus our seven hydro power plants.”

Due to the two Fiaga generators going offline, the two generators and seven hydro plants currently providing power cannot meet the demand, consequently the decision by the E.P.C. management to operate under ‘state of emergency’ provisions until the two Fiaga generators come back online. 

“At the moment we are still under the state of emergency and we are trying our best to share what we have at the moment. If we continue to have enough rainfall due to our rainy season we may not have any more power outage,” Tologata said. 

“It will be enough for us to provide the whole country with electricity. But if we don’t have enough rain or water to generate electricity from hydro and with only two Fiaga generators running, then there is a possibility that we may have to cut off some [electricity supplied to] some parts of the country for some time.”

He also added that from their perspective, consumers of electricity living furthest from the hub of their network might have to be taken off the grid until all electricity systems are restored and back to normal.

“It is because we cannot cut off the middle [parts] or the beginning of the feeder that we supply the electricity,” he added.

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