CUC boss says power is back

| 08/04/2011

(CNS): Grand Cayman’s power boss says that the firm is back up to sufficient generating capacity to serve the current peak demand, so he does not anticipate any more rolling blackouts. Richard Hew, the CEO of Caribbean Utilities Company Ltd, explained on Thursday that the mechanical failure of two units over the weekend, when a third was on planned maintenance on a hot day, caused the power company’s difficulties meeting demand. This led to rolling blackouts across the islands on Sunday and Monday. With three major units still off line as a result of previous failures and explosions, Hew said the weekend’s problems meant the company was running only 13 generators from its total of 20 units.(Photo Dennie WarrenJr)

However, with the cushion backup, Hew said the firm should not need to shed load unless there were more unexpected major mechanical failures. “If there are no other unplanned events the rotating outages are behind us for now,” he reassured the community.

One of units that broke at the weekend is now back in action and engineers have found the problem with the second, Hew stated. The company is now back up to 109 megawatts to serve a 98 megawatt peak demand and by next week will have 118 megawatts.

Although CUC owns a generating capacity of over 151 megawatts across 20 units to serve an absolute top demand of 102 megawatts, the combination of three major failures as well as regular maintenance and day to day mechanical problems combined to leave CUC short of working units. Hew said this had nothing to do with changes to the license agreement between the power firm and government, adding that CUC was not taking short cuts and the goal was still to have the ability to generate 135-155% of Grand Cayman’s peak demand.

He said that the recent situation was not typical of CUC’s service to its customers. Hew added that customers have enjoyed a high service in the past and were understandably concerned. The power boss explained that In 2010 the company had a 99.6% coverage level, which translated to each customer having only three and a half hours of lost power over an entire year. Given this weekend’s losses, where most customers were without power for at least two hours, he said that CUC would be unlikely to match that previous high level of service.

He said the intention was still to keep any power cuts down to less than an hour at a time, and with a new temporary generator and other units repaired, he was confident that the situation at the weekend was behind CUC.

Despite his confidence, unexpected events could, until the major units are back in service in May, cause further outages and he said CUC recognised the need to try and give customers notice when possible. He said the firm was investigating various channels to push the information out.

He explained that load shedding is selected by trying to match demand and capacity and the issue of commercial areas versus residential ones depending on time of day. “If it is in evening we will cut commercial areas and avoided the residential, but the difficulty is that commerce is spread around. It’s never a good situation when you have to have the lights out so we have to do our best to minimise the impact.”

He said the selection was usually a management decision and only automated when a unit instantaneously trips off and the computer would then cut according to capacity.

With repairs on major units expected to be complete by May as well as on-going maintenance and the introduction of a new temporary 15 megawatt generator, CUC will have more capacity this summer than last, Hew said. More importantly, it would have a bigger cushion between the firm’s ability to generate power and the demand for that power from customers. He further stated that the costs of dealing with mechanical problems and generator failures would not find their way on to customers’ bills.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    With all of that please remember that CUC lost generators a few months ago with the accident and they haven’t yet come up to full capacity. Generally CUC gives great service and it must be expected that we will pay more for utilities that any average US jurisdiction – sheer customer volume + all of our surcharges and import taxes. You should compare their service with some of our Caribbean neighbours and then you’ll appreciate.

    …..Or don’t even go that far, compare value for money with that other utility service provider, the big telephone company whose service makes one want to puke.

    BTW, I’m not a CUC spokesman – just a customer who has to pay my electricity bill like everyone else. 


  2. Anonymous says:

    The ironic thing is power should never have gone away – where is plan B? Cayman can’t sell itself as a premier location fortourism and finance, when the utility providers are very much "third world" 

  3. Anonymous says:

    Is he for real when he says, "CUC recognised the need to try and give customers notice when possible."

    What century is this? We get automated phone calls if power would ever be disrupted in developed countries.

    And they only now recognise this? 

    Guess it is time to switch off all breakers except for AC/Fridge each time I leave my house to protect it.

    Oh yea, and the uptime Mr. Hew, now please don’t compare it to the US anymore, along with the comparable costs.  Please compare the uptime and costs of our neighbors, like Jamacia.  Guess they don’t compare now do they!  We pay so much more and don’t get a lot better service.  Every noticed how TV’s only last a few years here, even on clean power strips?  Does it have to do anything with the inconsistent phasing?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thats true my bill went up $100 with me doing nothing different..and let me not talk about having to change the control board on my oven that blew up right after the power droped suddenly.

  5. Anonymous says:

    and as sure as eggs are eggs, prices have already gone through the roof and bills are at least 200 bucks higher this month…we haven’t even had two weeks of heat yet!

  6. Anonymous says:

    ‘when a third was on planned maintenance on a hot day’

    Sounds like bad planning to me, in fact pretty stupid planning.  Most service critical components are planned to be maintained either offline or when peak is low, like at night.  But then again that is normal industry standard and we are forgetting that CUC has no competition so they can do what they want and we have no choice – sigh!

  7. Stiff-Necked Fool says:

    How unfair is life!
    When there is a power outage due to no fault of the consumers, there is nothing we can do. We have to just sit down and accept it even if there is any loss to our frozen food or chilled produce in our fridges at home.
    Most businesses that have generators than can suffice until power is restored are ok, but we the ones that cant afford generators suffer the losses personnally and then what is worse is that, please dont be a day late in paying our CUC bills or we will be cut off directly!
    CUC should consider the hardships that they cause to us when electricity is down that we did not cause and either give compensation or a little compassion when we are a little late in paying them – What is good for the goose is good for the gander, naw true CUC?

  8. Snap says:

    Who he tryin’ fool? I’VE GOT THE POWER!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps while he is in the talking mood he can explain why on earth my bill jumped from $415 last month to $609 this month with nothing differently being done.


    • Alan Roffey says:

      In January Brent Crude Oil was at about US$ 85/barrel. It is now around US$ 120/barrel.

      This has been caused by a number of things including general political unrest in the middle east, leading to civil war in Libya, also the shutdown of nuclear reactors in several countries following the earthquake and tsunami damage to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant in Japan.

      These external market pressures are not CUC’s fault.

      To cut, or at least hold, your electricity cost, you have to learn to conserve.

      If you want to concerve, you first have to know how you are using your energy, then look for ways to reduce it.

      Send me an email at and I can try to help you with that.

    • Mally says:

      Because its getting hotter now Sherlock,Turn off your ac and stop living like a King or stfu and stop complaining.

    • turtle X says:

      CUC has reasons for this. It was a hot day – workers needing fans, AC units, and pina coladas to keep cool. This is CUC! They don’t work for us – we work and pay bills for them!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thank God. Because I don;’t think I could put up with that until May!