Nine hour power cut in Malé caused by damaged switch gear

The State Electricity Company (STELCO) has said that a power outage in the Galolhu ward of Malé around 1:00am last night was caused by a damaged switch gear at a distribution centre in Lily Magu.

The power cut lasted more than nine hours and followed STELCO warning of intermittent cuts in the capital after one of two main 8MW generators at the power plant suffered damage.

STELCO spokesperson Ibrahim Rauf told Minivan News that electricity services resumed around 11:00am this morning after the switch gear was replaced.

Contrary to rumours, Rauf said last night’s outage was not the result of an overload caused by LED lights placed at government buildings to mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of independence.

Rauf suggested that the damage could have been caused by heavy rainfall last night, but said that the exact cause has not been determined.

The damage to one of the main engines earlier this month was caused by “technical problems” and will take time to repair, Rauf said. The generator’s parts will have to be brought from overseas and replaced, he added.

STELCO is yet to determine the cause of the generator failure.

The government-owned electricity provider in the atolls, Fenaka Corporation, is meanwhile transporting two 2MW engines to Malé from Addu City for temporary use during the independence day celebrations.

Rauf said one of the generators was shipped out last night and STELCO “will see when it arrives” whether it could be installed ahead of Independence Day. But he expressed confidence that STELCO will be able to handle the high demand for electricity on July 26 without power cuts.

Meanwhile, in a Facebook post on Sunday, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodiq said electricity services provided by the central power station was disrupted last week while power outages have been common in recent weeks.

The transfer of the generator to Malé is regrettable, he said, calling on the government not to “deprive citizens of such basis services.”

The government’s policy of ensuring reliable, round-the-clock electricity across the country has “failed,” Sodiq contended.

“The question is if Addu faces an electricity problem tomorrow, will an engine be brought from Greater Malé?” he asked.

Rauf meanwhile told Minivan News last week that the LED lights strung for independence day celebrations will use around 2.5 MW of electricity from the STELCO grid.

“We are very concerned and saddened because the lights may also suffer due to the power cuts,” he said.

Malé uses 46MW of electricity on average, but the amount could go up to 52MW at peak hours or on dry and humid days.

“The demand for electricity depends a lot on the weather. If we have wet cold weather then people would not use air-conditioners and electricity demand will be reduced,” he said.

It has been raining heavily in Malé this week, but July 26 is expected to be dry, according to weather forecasts.

Power cuts will last only one hour at high demand periods, and will be spread out in different areas of Malé, Rauf said.

Maldives is celebrating 50 years of independence from the British on July 26.

The government is planning grand celebrations to mark Independence Day, including a parade by the army and school brass bands, reopening of public parks with water fountains, an official function at the Usfasgandu area with more than 100 foreign dignitaries, official games at the national stadium, and a football tournament in the atolls.

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Power shortages may affect plans to light up Malé on Independence Day

Power shortages may spoil the government’s plans to light up the capital Malé City on Independence Day, the State Electric Company (STELCO) has said.

A crucial 8MW generator is down at the power plant due to an unexpected failure and may take up to two weeks to repair.

Ibrahim Rauf, the STELCO spokesperson, said the company may have to cut off power intermittently at different areas in Malé due to the generator failure. It is one of the two 8MW generators at the power plant. There are a number of smaller power generators.

“The lights alone will use around 2.5 MW of electricity from our grid. We are very concerned and saddened because the lights may also suffer due to the power cuts,” said Rauf.

The Supreme Court, the President’s Office, the smoke stacks at the power plant, the foreign ministry and numerous government buildings have been decked from the ground floor to the top in red, green and white LED lights.

Maldives is celebrating 50 years of independence from the British on July 26.

Malé uses 46MW of electricity on average, but the amount could go up to 52MW at peak hours or on dry and humid days. Rauf said he expects electricity demand to be high on Independence Day, but stressed that only some areas will suffer power cuts, meaning most of the buildings in Malé will continue to be lit-up.

“The demand for electricity depends a lot on the weather. If we have wet cold weather then people would not use air-conditioners and electricity demand will be reduced,” he said.

It has been raining on and off in Malé this weekend, but July 26 is expected to be dry, according to weather forecasts.

Power cuts will last only one hour at high demand periods, and will be spread out in different areas of Malé, Rauf said. STELCO is yet to determine the cause of the generator failure.

The government is planning grand celebrations to mark Independence Day, including a parade by the army and school brass bands, reopening of public parks with water fountains, an official function at the Usfasgandu area with more than 100 foreign dignitaries, official games at the national stadium, and a football tournament in the atolls.

The government has not yet disclosed the full program for the day.

Several areas at Male’s waterfront have meanwhile been closed off as the government rushes to complete major renovation projects including a new official jetty and a musical water fountain at the Republic Square before July 26.

Finance minister Abdulla Jihad previously told Minivan News the budget was MVR150 million (US$9.7million).

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STELCO signs US$90m power development project

The State Electricity Company (STELCO) has signed a US$90 million power development project with China’s Dongfang Electric International Corporation to generate an additional 50 megawatts of electricity.

The state-owned utility company provides electricity services in Malé and its suburbs and presently produces 60 megawatts using 22 engines.

Under its fifth power development project, the company will install six engines over the next two years capable of generating eight megawatts each.

Speaking at a project inauguration ceremony on Thursday, STELCO managing director Abdul Shukoor said the company struggled to generate enough electricity for Malé during the recent hot northeastern monsoon.

STELCO was also unable to do maintenance work on engines and machinery, he said.

Once the power project is complete, Shukoor said STELCO would be able to provide electricity services without interruptions or technical problems.

The project will be financed through the STELCO budget and with loan assistance. The new engines are to be kept at the vacant plot next to the garbage dump.

Shukoor said the company plans to carry out another power development after four years, which will be four times bigger than the current project.

 

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Malé school resumes classes after ‘toxic’ shutdown

A Malé school, shut down last week due to toxic fumes, has resumed classes on Sunday.

A teacher at the Kalafaanu School told Minivan News they had been told the fumes are not harmful despite the unpleasant smell.

The school was shut down after several students complained of dizziness, headaches and nausea.

The fumes are believed to originate from Malé’s power house which is located just a block away from the school.

“The education ministry officials have compiled a report on the issue, however, we have not officially received it,” said Abdul Fahthaah.

The education ministry had said it would make public a report into the source of toxic fumes by last Saturday.

 

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State companies accused of dismissing, suspending opposition supporters

Several employees have accused three state-owned companies of firing opposition supporters for participating in anti-government protests.

Since March 1, at least four employees of State Electric Company Limited (STELCO) and one from Malé Water and Sewerage Company (MSWC) were dismissed, and at least five were suspended from Maldives Ports Limited (MPL).

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) on February 27 held a 10,000-strong protest march calling for President Abdulla Yameen’s resignation. Since then, the MDP continued daily protests over the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed.

The opposition leader was convicted of terrorism on March 13 and jailed for 13 years.

Speaking to Minivan News, Ahmed ‘Andha’ Saleem, 37, said he was dismissed from STELCO on March 12 despite 17 years of service because of his political views.

Saleem said his colleagues first told him to stop posting anti-government comments on social media or sharing photos of opposition protests. He complied, but was later told to resign when he was seen at an MDP protest on March 6.

At the time, STELCO offered him a MVR 300,000 (US$19,455) retirement package, but he declined the offer. Soon afterwards, he received a letter informing him of his dismissal, he said.

“I received a double promotion just three months back. This is an injustice. I will appeal this case at the Employment Tribunal,” he said.

Ali Farhad, dismissed from STELCO on March 10, claimed the President’s Office was directly responsible for his dismissal.

Several employees who attended the March 6 protests were asked to write apology letters to First Lady Fathimath Ibrahim or Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, the 43-year old claimed. He was dismissed when he refused to write the letter.

“I love STELCO. I have worked there for 30 years. Even though I’ve been dismissed and my fundamental rights violated, I will continue to participate in protests,” he said.

STELCO’s Assistant Director Abdulla Nazir dismissed claims of forced resignation and said the four employees were retired voluntarily and afforded full retirement benefits.

“The dismissals went according to company procedures,” he said.

Condemning the dismissals, MDP Spokesperson and MP Imthiyaz Fahmy said the party would assist employees in contesting any unfair dismissal, suspension or incidents of harassment at the Employment Tribunal.

“The government is ordering civil servants and state company employees to attend pro-government rallies, I have seen the texts, the letters ordering their attendance. Opposition supporters are getting sacked for exercising their right to assembly and free speech even as board members and managerial staff lead pro-government rallies,” he alleged.

At MPL, a spokesperson said at least five workers had been suspended since March 1 for alleged misconduct.

However, employees claimed 18 staff were suspended for participating in the February 27 mass rally.

Administrative Officer Miusam Abbas said he received a letter on March 1 informing him he had been suspended for misconduct. He was summoned to a disciplinary committee last week and questioned on his participation in the February 27 rally, as well as his support for the government.

Two additional MPL staffs who wished to remain anonymous confirmed they, too, had been suspended for their anti-government views and support for the opposition.

“I don’t depend on Gayoom for my sustenance. I will continue protesting,” one 35-year-old told Minivan News.

The pair confirmed MPL staff regularly received text messages from the company requesting their attendance at ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives rallies.

Both said they had been summoned to a disciplinary committee and asked if they had gone to opposition protests. Attending protests calling for the president’s resignation while employed in a state-owned company was unacceptable, the pair were told.

MPL Media Coordinator Ahmed Athif declined to comment on the suspensions, claiming it was an ongoing case.

Meanwhile, a procurement assistant at MWSC, Ibrahim Ismail, 20, was dismissed on March 12 after he participated in a boat protest near Dhoonidhoo Island on March 6.

“I knew this was bound to happen. Firing government employees who support the opposition has become common practice. But my dismissal came without warning, it was very sudden,” he said.

The reasons for his dismissal remain unclear, Ismail said.

The MWSC was not responding to calls at the time of press.

 


Related to this story

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10,000 protest in Malé, call for President Yameen’s resignation

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Application for state electricity subsidies opens today

The National Social Protection Agency (NSPA) has announced the commencement of the two month application period for renewed electricity subsidies.

In an announcement made on February 9, the NSPA stated that the period for submission of forms will run from February 10 to April 9.

The forms are to be submitted to the NSPA desk in Faashana Maalam of Dharubaaruge in Malé and island council offices in other regions.

The NSPA recently revealed that the criteria for state provided electricity subsidies is under review to ensure subsidies are granted in a proportional and fair manner, as “the wealthy and the poor are now being the same subsidies”.

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Oil leaks from burst STELCO pipe

An oil pipe of the State Electricity Company (STELCO) carrying fuel to electric turbines in Malé burst open yesterday, spilling oil into the sea on the western side of the capital.

STELCO said in a press release that measures were promptly taken to mitigate damage to the coastal environment. The company said the hole in the pipe was patched and repaired.

Moreover, protection sheets were placed to prevent the leaked oil from spreading while efforts were underway to remove the oil and clean the affected area, the state’s utility company said.

STELCO assured that steps were being taken to prevent a recurrence of a similar incident.

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Majlis approves reintroducing car allowance for ministers

The People’s Majlis approved a revision to the state’s wage structure recommended by the public accounts committee (PAC) to reintroduce a discontinued car allowance for cabinet ministers.

The PAC report (Dhivehi) was passed with 58 votes in favour and 20 against.

On July 14, the PAC approved a request by President Abdulla Yameen to reintroduce the MVR6,500 (US$422) monthly salary for drivers of ministers’ cars as well as a MVR1,000 (US$65) allowance for petrol cost.

Parliament also granted an extension to an MVR50 million (US$3.2 million) overdraft facility provided to the State Electricity Company (STELCO) by the Bank of Maldives.

A recommendation by the PAC (Dhivehi) to extend the duration of the overdraft facility until March 2015 was passed unanimously with 80 votes in favour.

Parliamentary approval for the extension was required under the Public Finance Act.

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Auditor General questions valuation of assets of state-owned enterprises

The Auditor General’s Office has questioned the valuation of assets of the Thilafushi Corporation Ltd (TCL) and State Electricity Company (STELCO) in audit reports of the state-owned enterprises for 2013.

The TCL audit report released last week explained that the Finance Ministry transferred land and buildings on Thilafushi Industrial Island to the corporation at a value of MVR12 billion (US$778 million).

“The consideration for such transfer had been made by the issue of 150,000,000 equity shares of MVR10 each issued at a premium of MVR74.13 to Ministry of Finance and Treasury,” the report stated.

Following valuation of the island and property therein by a professionally qualified party “on the basis of capitalised lease rentals to perpetuity,” the leased land was valued at MVR5,725 (US$371) per square foot.

Additionally, “land pending reclamation and lease at the time” was valued at MVR1,200 per square foot, “the reasonableness of which cannot be readily established.”

The report noted that the transaction took place between TCL and the Finance Ministry, “its sole shareholder.”

Moreover, in the “absence of a valuation adopting alternative approaches in the context that this is the first purchase of land transaction at Thilafushi,” the Auditor General’s Office was “unable to conclude whether the rates per square foot derived above are reasonable.”

The report stated that auditors were “unable to satisfy ourselves whether the land and buildings thereon and share premium shown in the balance at MVR12,618, 789,042 and MVR11,118,789,042 [US$713 million] respectively are fairly stated.”

Work in progress

The report also noted that MVR33 million (US$2 million) was paid to Heavy Load Maldives for land reclamation, which was stated in the balance sheet as capital work in progress.

However, in 2011, the company incurred a further MVR23 million (US$1.4 million) for the project, increasing the total capital work-in-progress amount to MVR61 million (US$3.9 million).

Auditors found that the MVR23 million had been “capitalised by transferring the amount from capital work-in-progress to land towards the industrial zone reclamation,” while the remaining amount had not been capitalised.

“In the absence of evidences supporting the work done for the remaining amount of MVR38,889,767, we are unable to conclude whether the company has received value for the amount paid and therefore whether the capital work-in-progress has been fairly stated,” the report concluded.

In January 2013, local media reported that TCL incurred MVR650 million (US$42 million) worth of losses as a result of Heavy Load not reclaiming the agreed 152 hectares of land within the granted six month period.

As a result of the issues flagged in the report, the audit office was “unable to obtain sufficient appropriate audit evidence to provide a basis for an audit opinion,” and subsequently did not express an opinion on TCL’s financial statement.

STELCO and MPL

In the audit report of STELCO for 2013, the audit office noted that while the company’s financial statements gave “a true and fair view” of its financial position, performance and cash flow as of December 31, 2013, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim qualified his opinion due to questions over the valuation of assets.

The report explained that the government-owned company’s property, plant and equipment were revalued by an external valuer during 2011.

“Accordingly, the assets having net book value of MVR434,455,893 [US$28 million] as at 31 December 2011 were revalued for MVR847,932,997 [US$54 million] and a revaluation surplus of MVR413,477,104 was recognised in the books of account,” the report revealed.

However, it added, assets worth MVR26 million (US$1.6 million) were excluded from the revaluation report and “the company accounted these assets at their respective net book values based on historical cost,” which was in violation of international accounting standards.

Consequently, “in the absence of valuation of these assets,” auditors were unable to conclude that MVR15 million (US$972,762) included in the property, plant and equipment of MVR1.5 billion (US97 million) as well as a revaluation reserve of MVR314 million (US$20 million) in the balance sheet was “fairly stated.”

Meanwhile, the audit report of the Maldives Ports Ltd (MPL) for 2013 noted that the company was owed MVR13 million (US$8 million) from the dissolved Maldives National Shipping Ltd, which was a receivable that has been “outstanding for more than four years and therefore, doubtful of recovery.”

As a result, the report noted, auditors were unable to conclude “whether the amount shown under related party receivables in the statement of financial position is recoverable and [whether] the results for the year and receivables were are fairly stated.”

Auditors also found that MVR24 million (US$1.5 million) was “incurred on the construction of a tug boat for harbour operations.”

However, the construction had been discontinued since 2010 “due to a dispute with the constructor,” auditors found.

“Further, we were not allowed to access the premises of the tug boat. Hence, we are unable to satisfy ourselves regarding the physical existence and recoverability of the asset,” the report stated.

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