Electricity problems, “act of God” and what needs to happen

The Electric Power Corporation (E.P.C.) needs to get its act together. Instead of continuing to blame an “act of God” for the recent power outages, they need to identify the real problem and fix it. Pronto. Enough with the excuses.

We say this because when the Government created the E.P.C. many years ago to “power the nation,” their mandate was to ensure that businesses, residential homes and all of Samoa’s electricity needs are met. In other words, their basic job is to provide this country with a reliable electricity supply, nothing more, nothing less.

During the past few weeks, each and every one of us has been affected one way or another by the multiple power failures. On some days, this has happened up to four times. During some of these outages, they can go on for several hours.

The cost of this on members of the public in terms of damaged properties; time and wasted business would be astronomical. And this does not include the fluctuation in the level of electricity, which brings its own set of problems for consumers.

We can go on but the people of this country know what we are talking about. They are the real victims in this case. This is why we say the time for excuses is over.

Last month, the General Manager of E.P.C., Tologata Tile Tuimaleali’ifano, confirmed that a “lightning strike” knocked out two of the four generators at the multi-million-tala Fiaga Diesel Power Plant, which provides up to 65 percent of the nation’s electricity. He also declared a “state of emergency” in terms of electricity.

 “This has been caused by something beyond our control, it is an act of God,” he said. “Unfortunately the incident that happened on Monday afternoon was beyond the capacity of the design of the power station, it was very excessive.”

Last week, E.P.C. announced the lifting of the state of emergency.

 “E.P.C. is pleased to advise our valued consumers and the public that our damaged control systems for our Fiaga generators and batteries have been successfully restored and supply of electricity is now back to normal,” the utility's statement said.

“The General Manager also takes this opportunity to convey E.P.C.’s sincere appreciation and gratitude to all our valued customers, businesses and stakeholders for your patience and support while the Corporation was working tirelessly during this power crisis since last week Monday, 27th January 2020.”

Well that was great news, music to the ears of thousands of E.P.C. consumers affected by this so-called “act of God.” The problem was even after the grand announcement, electricity problems have continued to plague customers.

And then came yesterday’s front-page story titled “Government’s powerful backflip” where the Minister of E.P.C., Papali’i Niko Lee Hang, conceded that the lifting of the “state of emergency” was premature.

The Minister went on to confirm that the damage to the Fiaga diesel plant was continuing to drive electricity cuts across the country.

“So long as there is lightning, we will be faced with the outages,” said Papali’i, reiterating the “act of God” line. “There is nothing we can do about it other than replace what was damaged as a result.”

And then he said something that warrants real scrutiny. Said the Minister: “We can only advise [people] to invest in uninterrupted power supply equipment, to assure the outages does not damage equipment and appliances, etc. Under the law, the E.P.C. is not liable for damaged equipment as a result of the outages.”

Let’s think carefully about this for a minute. So what exactly is the Minister talking about?

Is he suggesting that after all the millions of public monies the Government had spent on electricity infrastructure – including US$100 million on the Power Supply Expansion Project and grants to the value of US$33 million to the renewables sector - and now the E.P.C. cannot guarantee an “uninterrupted power supply” to this country? What does that say about this country today?

And isn’t it interesting that the Government has shielded itself from being held liable for the cost of damages they have heaped on innocent members of the public who continue to suffer from their failure to deliver on their core mandate which is a reliable electricity supply?

Let us remind our leaders today that this is 2020. We are not stuck in the 1960s where excuses like an “act of God” would have passed without scrutiny.

For all the millions of tala the Government had spent on the electricity sector with the promise of improved and a reliable supply, members of the public and E.P.C consumers deserve better. They should demand it.

Either the E.P.C. can fix the problem or they can’t. If they can’t, the solution is simple, the Government needs to find someone or people who can. And with Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi surrounded by all those “laui’a,” that surely shouldn’t be too hard to do? Right?

Have a beautiful Thursday Samoa, God bless!






















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