As the entire Caribbean prepares for the hot and humid summer months, the Caribbean Utilities Company has started its own preparations for the inevitable spike in electricity demand during May through to September, when electricity customers are more likely to run their air conditioning longer and at lower temperatures to combat the higher temperature,
Earlier this year, CUC resorted to load shedding – a method used by the company to maintain the buffer between demand and available capacity – which caused rolling blackouts.
In early April, CUC cut power to several areas of Grand Cayman, including to major hotels and various areas of business and commerce, when the temperature was still relatively mild.
“CUC’s customers typically experience 3-5 hours of outages per year which are more likely to be related to disruptions of the distribution system and not related to insufficient generation capacity,” said CUC spokesperson Pat Bynoe-Clarke. “In February of this year, having lost the service of three of its large units, CUC informed the public that its reserve generation margin had been significantly reduced.
“At that time we ordered temporary generation in order to restore an adequate margin to avoid greater exposure to outages. The two days of rotating one-hour outages in April occurred prior to CUC putting the temporary generation in to service. We are pleased to say that the 15 megawatt of temporary generation is now in service.”
CUC is trying to do everything in their power to avoid a shortfall in their capacity.
“Consumers have really enjoyed the high level of electricity and are therefore concerned now that they’ve had a couple of outages and are understandably concerned with the summer peak season coming up,” said CUC President and CEO Richard Hew in an April press briefing.
“There will always be some exposure to outages caused by shortfall in generating capacity,” he added.
CUC’s plan was to lease temporary generation.
“CUC has received 15 megawatts of leased temporary generation and will have two of its large units that have been out of service for an extended period ready in May,” Ms Clarke said. “This will provide sufficient additional capacity to meet the higher demand in the summer months.”
The company has expedited repairs to the units that experienced failures earlier this year.
“For the summer season we will keep the 15 megawatts even though we will have another 25 megawatts returning to service in May, to ensure that we can meet peak load and maintain our planned maintenance programme,” she added.
Clarke said that she understands these necessary rolling blackouts cost CUC and other businesses money.
“Any losses are the normal costs of doing business, but our primary focus is on providing reliable service in a safe and efficient manner,” she said.
5 years of Caribbean Utilities Company bringing electricity service to the Cayman Islands.
In 1967, CUC upgraded its distribution volts by three times to provide service to the island. Three years later, the company served over 1,500 people on the islands.
1978 marked a major step forward when the Holiday Inn on Seven Mile Beach was connected to the grid. The company’s licence was renewed for another 25 years in 1986.
The new headquarters were opened in 1993, and the community involvement programme was created and launched in 1997.
2006 marked the 40-year anniversary as the sole provider of electricity in Cayman while Fortis Inc became CUC’s controlling shareholder.
CUC is celebrating their 45th anniversary this summer.