Palau Public Utilities Corporation (PPUC) apologized and explained multiple unscheduled power blackouts last week citing infrastructure failures such as broken hardware and powerline interference from tree branches.
Power disruptions have become normal occurrence on the island but they are usually brief and for the most part, come with advance notices. Most outages occur during heavy rains or strong storms but lately, more disruptions are happening with longer delays in between raising more complaints from customers.
Recent outages had people on social media expressing outrage against PPUC while others express sympathy, especially for the PPUC linemen and crew for working all hours of the day under all kinds of weather to bring power back online.
PPUC had, through public hearings and previous interviews, reported that aging power distribution infrastructure, which is over 20 years old, is failing resulting in increased outages.
Resistance to PPUC’s attempts to increase power rates to allow for full cost recovery has hamstringed the corporation’s ability to manage and maintain the power distribution part of its service portfolio.
A PPUC employee (doesn’t want to be named), said that PPUC does not have parts to fix all of the deteriorated equipment and they will only fix when something breaks. Another (who also wishes to remain unnamed) said that the practice is, when a bid goes out for parts or power lines, dueto limited funding, the company always chose the lowest bidder. This means that the cheapest products such as the type of powerlines were chosen and these do not last long and require constant maintenance.
PPUC had recently applied for a $10 million dollar loan from ADB to help resolve some of the infrastructure problems and address short-term operational gaps. An MOU has been signed between ADB and Palau and is in the process of finalization, according to Minister ElbuchelSadang, who sits on the Board of Governors of ADB.Final approval of OEK is required before the loan can be executed.