Heine declares power emergency

In the foreground is an empty slab where a Marshalls Energy Company warehouse used to sit before it was demolished last year to begin fixing the facility. At the back is the power plant opened in 1982. Photo: Giff Johnson.
In the foreground is an empty slab where a Marshalls Energy Company warehouse used to sit before it was demolished last year to begin fixing the facility. At the back is the power plant opened in 1982. Photo: Giff Johnson.

The new administration of President Hilda Heine announced two weeks ago that it was intending to declare a state of emergency for the power situation in Majuro.

This week, several days after President Heine highlighted the power problem in her inauguration speech at Nitijela Monday, the government moved ahead with this plan.

“We are now declaring state of emergency for the power situation in Majuro,” Finance Minister David Paul told the Journal Wednesday morning.

The power situation in Majuro has continued to deteriorate in January, with dozens of unplanned outages since the start of the new year, including two extended outages — one of over 30 hours and last weekend’s 65-hour outage in the Ajeltake to Laura section of Majuro.

A serious spinoff problem resulting from the repeated and long power outages in Majuro is availability of fresh water.

“We are unable to carry out water deliveries for those who bought water due to power outage,” Majuro Water and Sewer Company said on its Facebook page Saturday afternoon.

No power translates into no electricity to run water pumps that fill water delivery trucks and pump water into city water pipelines from MWSC’s airport reservoir facility.

Over the past three weeks, as rain has dried up with the Marshall Islands in its usual dry season worsened by the onset of El Niño, water trucks have been seen from morning until late at night, delivering water after filling up at the airport reservoir.

The inability to deliver fresh water comes as the RMI National Disaster Management Organization posted its Facebook page an update on the El Niño weather condition, showing that “much less” rain is expected. Residents of the Marshall Islands dependent on rainwater for about 95 percent of their water supply.

Confirming the NDMO notice about El Niño and lack of rain, from just after Christmas to January 18, barely one inch of rain was recorded in Majuro. Meaning, essentially, that there was no rain for three weeks up to last weekend. The first “real” rain that fell was on Friday January 19.

The dry season is being felt at the reservoir that saw its water level drop from over 32 million gallons January 1 to 26 million January 18 as demand increased.

President Heine in her inauguration speech declared the most immediate priority of the new government is government infrastructure.

“First and foremost,” she said, “our power supply.”

The President pointed out that Majuro “has been suffering the worst power outages we’ve seen in decades over this past weekend and these past few weeks.

“We need to take steps necessary to understand where these problems with our power system originated, to ensure we never experience this level of inadequacy again. And I hope this assembly (Nitijela) trusts that we will continue to work closely with the Marshalls Energy Company to address this issue over the coming weeks and months.”

She added that the current problems show “why we must diversify our energy sector and pivot our focus back to continuing the implementation of our National Energy Roadmap and investing in renewables.”

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