It's been a week since an explosion and major fire shut down the Guam Power Authority's most efficient base load units. And as a result, power customers experienced the first of its impact with loadshedding over this past weekend.

"We want to get out of this equation of crisis mode by having enough capacity to meet and get out of this load-shedding scenario," explained GPA general manager John Benavente, referring to the power outages that occurred over the Labor Day weekend. GPA had to secure Cabras 1 on Friday night in order to repair a boiler tube leak. "So therefore, we worked through it over the weekend, which is a lower load instead of waiting for the inevitable meaning the plant will fail if we don't take care of that immediately," he added.

Cabras 1 going offline even for a short time made the utility agency vulnerable. As we reported, GPA already is at risk of lacking adequate capacity as a result of Cabras 3 and 4 - GPA's most efficient units- shutting down a week ago after an explosion and fire occurred. "When we lose 80 megawatts, certainly we don't have enough reserve incase other units go down. In addition, we have to plan overhauls on the machine, so over the next two or three weeks, we're going to put another machine down that needs to be repaired," said Benavente. "Again, we cannot allow the machines not to be maintained otherwise our power will be compounded, meaning we'll run the machines to death and we'll have a much more serious problem."

GPA may have to loadshed again should any of its larger units have to be secured for repairs. In the meantime, GPA is working on implementing alternative solutions in order to get out of this "crisis mode", one of which includes making arrangements with larger power customers like hotels and malls who have standby generators. "I would like to work out an agreement with them so if we come to a scenario where we lose another base load and are going to run short, we'll give them a call and ask them to go off the line and stay on their standby generator that will allow us to avoid load shedding many customers, if at all, by doing this," said the GM.

Benavente says he would hope to cement some type of agreement for a six-month period. As for the actual cause of the explosion and fire and the extent of the damage, that has yet to be determined as the Guam Fire Department and GPA need to do an assessment. Benavente, however, says the roof of Cabras 4 has collapsed in, noting, "We have worked and hired a consulting structural engineering to work with the fire department that the plan, and the structure is safe enough for our employees and all our expertise to go in."

While the cost of the damage has yet to be determined, general manager Benavente says both units cost $300 million. He says the last time major loadshedding occurred as in the early to mid-1990s when demand outstripped capacity. GPA will make a presentation to the Consolidated Commission on Utilities during a work session Wednesday morning.