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Hot temperatures straining SKELEC’s power generation


by Eulana Weekes

St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): An increase in energy demand is having a direct impact on the St. Kitts Electricity Company’s (SKELEC) capacity to generate electricity, explained the company’s General Manager, Mr. Jomo Williams.

“In general, naturally, you would expect that your energy demand would be growing every year. Currently, the peak demand for St. Kitts is around 28.4 megawatts, which is an increase of just about one to two per cent over last year and that is pretty much in line with what we expect the annual growth to be. Now, the challenge that we face at SKELEC is that our generation capacity, pretty much exactly mirrors the demand at this current time,” said Williams.

He made those comments during Wednesday’s Power Talk on ZIZ (September 13).

He added, “Now, some time back, we had some cr itical failures of some generators; I think late last year; and all of the generators are not back in rotation as yet. We got one of three back. We have two more. So, whenever there are any challenges at the plant, whether it be from a fuel leak, whether it be from whatever, we would have to engage in some sort of power outage, affecting customers. It’s rather unfortunate. It’s not something that we wish to do, but it’s a preventative measure that we have to take in order to prolong the life of the asset. Now, I usually tell people, it’s [better] to be without electricity for half of an hour (30 minutes) than to damage the equipment and then we have to do load shedding for six months.

Over recent months conversations heightened about possible major investments in power generation for St. Kitts. Williams said the investment will need to be made in short order.

“In the near future, significant investment, definitely will have to be made within the power generation system; whether it be through the installation of new back-up generators or renewable energy sources such as solar farms, geothermal plants, hydrogen plants, whatever the renewable energy facility is; but these are things we at SKELEC are definitely planning towards. We know we are going through a difficult period right now. We’re asking the general public to be understanding and note that we exercise due care and attention when carrying out these repairs; but they are definitely unavoidable right now,” Williams stated.

Also a guest on Power Talk, Mr Jonathan Kelly, SKELEC’s Engineering Manager explained that with increased temperatures, SKELEC noticed that a lot of power demand is being driven by cooling loads; thereby reducing the margin between daytime and nighttime peak.

“I think there is a trend. If we were to have some statistics from the Department of Statistics, they’re more ACs being installed in the average household now. People are finding the little LASCO fans not sufficient, so people are putting in ACs and as a result of that now, here at SKELEC we’re starting to see a closing in the margin between the daytime peak and the night time peak. It’s becoming very, very close, because people are now demanding more energy at night as well.”

Jonathan Kelly added that even though the summer months have passed, SKELEC has not yet seen that drop off in electricity demand and does not envision a drop off before November or December. SKELEC, he said, has seen the highest demand for electricity in the month of October for the past few years.

In 2023 the hottest temperatures in history were recorded. July in particular was the hottest month and based on information and analysis from weather experts, the heat is expected to continue for the rest of the year.

As global leaders and weather experts discuss the climate crisis and climate action, policy makers are leaning more towards renewable energy generation.

According to the United Nations, “Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas, are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 90 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions. The science is clear: to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, emissions need to be reduced by almost half by 2030 and reach net-zero by 2050. To achieve this, we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels and invest in alternative sources of energy that are clean, accessible, affordable, sustainable, and reliable. Renewable energy sources – which are available in abundance all around us, provided by the sun, wind, water, waste, and heat from the Earth – are replenished by nature and emit little to no greenhouse gases or pollutants into the air. Fossil fuels still account for more than 80 percent of global energy production, but cleaner sources of energy are gaining ground. About 29 per cent of electricity currently comes from renewable sources.”



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