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How will power plant fire affect ratepayers?

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Before the sun rose Monday morning, heavy smoke and flames were seen from the Cabras Power Plant, where an explosion and major fire broke out. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of an explosion and major fire that broke out this morning at one of the Guam Power Authority's most efficient baseload units. And with the loss of about 80 megawatts to the system, should customers expect load shedding and change in rates?

John Benavente, general manager for the utility agency, said, "At about 2:30 this morning, our Cabras Power Plant, Cabras 3 and 4 experienced an explosion and corresponding fire and therefore the whole plant was shut down." That explosion occurred in Piti in one of the Guam Power Authority's most efficient baseload plants. Benavente says most importantly, the five employees on duty escaped without injury. As for the exact cause, while he does not believe it was intentional, that is still under investigation.

"And actually up to this point are continuing their analysis and inspection of the facilities to be able to determine whether the plant is structurally sound for personnel to enter the premises," he said.

But with the loss of 80 megawatts to the system, will GPA be able to meet the current power demand for the island? Benavente says it will have some impact on customers, noting, "As far as meeting the load, we are able to meet the load as of right now today, we do have 276 megawatts of capacity. Our peak demand as everyone knows and understands lately, it's been hot lately ,and when it's hot on Guam, the air conditioning loads go up, and so it's been around 250 megawatts. So we basically have about 26 megawatts on reserve and as long as our other plants continue to operate then we should be able to meet the load."

Just as GPA looks at other alternatives, they're also weighing whether it will have an impact on rates as power will be produced on units not as efficient as Cabras 3 and 4. "But again, we are going to be consuming more fuel and certainly it will be a cost factor for the overall ratepayers," he said, also adding he's not certain how much fuel will be used. "But certainly we'll be watching again to operate as efficiently as possible within the constraints we have," he shared.

Just this month, GPA passed the Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause, which is set to last for a six-month period.

Meanwhile, US Coast Guard Sector Guam along with local agencies did have to respond to Cabras  as a result of an oil spill caused by the explosion. "Some of the oils that were in the plant, actually spilled out around the vicinity of the Cabras power plant," said Benavente. "Our teams immediately brought in the spill response team not only for the onsite, but the water site of the plant."

Benavente says most of the residual oil has been continued and the cleanup continues. We should note, this is not the first time an incident happened at the power plant, as an explosion occurred in early 2000 at Cabras 3 - before the Consolidated Commission on Utilities came on board. Benavente meanwhile is asking customers to practice energy conservation efforts. As for whether we should be worried in the long term about load shedding, benavente says he will know for sure in about a week's time.

GPA at this time could not put a dollar figure on the damage to the baseload units.

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