The island’s sole electricity provider, Dominica Electricity Services Ltd (DOMLEC) has reported that an island-wide power cut on Thursday morning was a result of insufficient generation capacity. The outage was one of a series that has been plaguing the island in recent times.
“A fault on the system resulted in the loss of the Sugar Loaf Power Plant, then the Fond Cole Power Plant and then
the hydropower plants causing a complete shutdown,” Manager of DOMLEC, Bertilia McKenzie revealed at a press conference on Thursday. “I need to say to us that the root cause of this load shedding has been insufficient generation capacity.”
According to her, DOMLEC is now facing a generation shortfall and there are several causes.
“We have been seeing in 2023 increased consumption, what you call increased load, so our peak so far for the year is 17.62 megawatts,” McKenzie explained.
She said compared to 2021, “where we have a peak of 16.38 megawatts, that’s over 1-megawatt additional consumption by our customers and in 2022 of 16.35 megawatts as well.”
She pointed out that Dominicans are consuming more power in 2023 but that’s not all. According to her, DOMLEC is also facing the problem of old machines.
“Compare this with an aging generation fleet, and aging diesel generation fleet of which 10 megawatts of generation are past due for retirement,” she said.
She stated that the company is putting in place some measures to combat the ongoing power cuts.
Specifically, she indicated that in the immediate term, the Government of Dominica has provided DOMLEC with an 800 KW generator and it’s expected to be commissioned by September 15.
“DOMLEC has also sourced the services of a generation consultant from St Lucia to undertake an assessment of our generation system, an independent person to help us with what’s going on,” McKenzie revealed. “His initial stint commences on Monday, September 18, and will conclude on the 22, that’s the initial stint, but we expect him to return.”
“He is going to undertake the assessment, tell us what he sees, and give us recommendations,” she added.
She also revealed that in the immediate term, the electrical company is going to lease two megawatts of temporary generation from outside.
Meanwhile, McKenzie said the country needs additional generation.
“We need additional generation, the country needs additional generation,” McKenzie pointed out. “Customers [would]
complain about the price of electricity before but they would always say, I can count on DOMLEC. Now they are
saying to me that the reliability has gone down the drain. And they are correct. So we need to procure an additional
two to four megawatts of generation subject to IRC (Independent Regulatory Commission) approval because the
regulator must approve.”
She explained that the medium to long-term solution is a 10 megawatts geothermal power plant now under construction in Laudat which according to her, will be commissioned “in a few years.”
The ongoing power cuts have been the center of discussion by many Dominicans on social media while the company has consistently said that these are part of its “Capacity Management Program.”
In March 2022, the government of Dominica announced that it had acquired majority shares in the company with Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit saying it was being done “in the best interest of electricity consumers, the shareholders and employees of the company, and Dominica.”
He said the move was in line with his government’s plan to make Dominica the first climate-resilient country in the world.
“The acquisition of DOMLEC aligns with our goals to build resilience in the energy sector through deliberate action to improve energy security, and strengthen growth and economic prospects. As part of our vision for a dynamic Dominica, we are pursuing greater efficiency in electricity generation to meet our national target of 100% clean, carbon-neutral energy by the year 2030,” Skerrit said.
With the ongoing outages getting on everyone’s nerves, some people are demanding answers from the government.
“This is a crisis in Dominica and no one seems to be addressing it. Isn’t the gov’t the majority shareholder in DOMLEC? What is the gov’t saying?” one person wrote on Facebook.