Majuro’s power crisis continues

A drone photo shows the two old power plants in Majuro, foreground center. Poorly functioning and non-functioning engines well beyond their useful lifespans are still in service in Majuro, causing instability in power service to the capital. Photo: Tyler Milne.

The tenuous condition of the Marshalls Energy Company’s power plants was on full display during the last days of 2023 and last week.

Unscheduled power outages have been repeatedly happening in Majuro, and power rationing went into effect late last week as MEC power plant staff struggled to repair one of the large engines that anchors power delivery to the capital atoll.

MEC scheduled an outage for the power plant to Laura area for powers plant maintenance Thursday December 28. But then a few days before this date postponed it to the following week Thursday. On December 28, however, power was unexpectedly shut off in the morning to the Laura area and stayed off until mid-afternoon because of “a sudden emergency issue at the plant,” according to MEC.

Friday December 29, power was unexpectedly turned off to a section of Delap due to a malfunctioning transformer near the Pacific Regional Bank. Power was off most of the day in the downtown area.

Last week, the delayed scheduled outage from the power plant to Laura went ahead. It lasted until nearly 9pm to Ajeltake and continued later before power was restored to Laura, meaning what was scheduled as an eight-hour outage morphed into a 12-hour one.

This was an indication of the problems surrounding continued operation of one of the two large Deutz engines at MEC’s power plant.

“Due to a mechanical issue with the large Deutz engine, we may not have enough power to feed the entire island tonight, and power may be off in some areas of Majuro,” MEC stated Thursday January 4 on its Facebook page. MEC advised businesses “to run their own generators tonight.”

Further, it announced a new power outage plan for the power plant to Ejit the next day, Friday from 9am. Electricity from the “power plant to Rita will be shut down until the Deutz engine is repaired,” Thursday’s announcement said.

The outage continued all day Friday and about 5pm, MEC announced on its Facebook page: “Due to ongoing issues, today’s planned engine repairs were unable to be completed. As a result, the rolling outages will continue tonight and tomorrow. MEC will shut down the big Deutz engine around 4am for repairs, but power will be rotated as needed. Please turn off all lights and equipment that you are not using to help keep the power on elsewhere.”

When MEC power plant crews were unable to complete repairs on the large Deutz engine last Friday, it plunged Majuro Atoll into long power outages over the weekend.

MEC had announced Friday that the capital would be subject to rolling power outages due to the Deutz repair work continuing.

There are two Deutz engines, which are rated at 6.5 megawatts but due to age actually generate less power. But the Deutz generator that was the subject of emergency repair work last weekend is the backbone for the power supply to Majuro. Without it, MEC does not have power generation capacity to meet power demand of the entire atoll.

MEC turned off power from Rairok to Laura at about 3am Saturday, and also turned off the area from the old Momotaro store to Ejit to limit demand on the few engines still in operation at the plant.

Power stayed off to these locations throughout Saturday. Day turned to night and power stayed off. No announcements came from MEC Saturday about the extended outage. Meantime, power plant engineers focused on repairing the Deutz engine.

Power stayed off overnight except for a 19-minute period, between 9:30pm and 9:49pm, when power from Rairok to Laura came on for a hopeful few minutes, only to click off and stay off for another nearly 12 hours.

At 9:30am Sunday, power was restored to both ends of the atoll, with a few ongoing on-off hiccups in the downtown area. But for the airport to Laura, once power returned at 9:30am Sunday — after over 30 hours off — it stayed on into this week.


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