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Ruta Mave: Power outages: Where are the experts?

Monday 1 July 2024 | Written by Ruta Tangiiau Mave | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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Ruta Mave: Power outages: Where are the experts?
Ruta Tangiiau Mave.

Did TAU (Te Aponga Uira) have to wait until the expert caught a plane to Rarotonga to assess the situation? Ruta Mave writes.

An expensive and essential machine suddenly stops and all production grinds to a halt. No one knows how to fix the machine so they call in an expert. She walks up to the machine gets out her hammer and hits it hard. The machine jumps back into life and the business is able to continue working, everyone is happy.  The manager is very grateful and offers to pay the expert immediately until, she says it is $3000. “What how can that be? You only hit the machine once with a hammer” To this the expert replied “Hitting the machine is $10, knowing where to hit is $2990.00.” 

An expert or specialist is a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area. We certainly always call in ‘experts’ to assess our needs and to help us plan and install our very important and essential machines like the new power grid so we can operate our daily lives.

Knowing this why did we lose power three nights in a row when everyone was cooking dinner and having showers and watching TV? Each night was about the same time and it took them three days to troubleshoot that maybe there was an overload on the system?

Did TAU have to wait until the expert caught a plane to Rarotonga to assess the situation? It didn’t take an expert to figure out that the system was overloaded. The question begs answering did they use an expert to set up the system in the first place? Do we have any experts on the island to avoid this inconvenience happening again?

It was like the titan submersible which this time last year went on a voyage to see the titanic. Both said they were indestructible similar to TAU saying they had upgraded our old outdated power system and it would serve us better.

The old system never dropped out power island wide three times in a row, and while businesses lost money from not being able to operate, while tourists were left in the dark or turned away from getting a meal for the evening, TAU were looking for matches to light candles in the office to read the ‘in case of an emergency’ handbook.

Thankfully the problem was discovered, the system was set too low for the volume of usage occurring at that time. Remarkable who knew? Has no one had taken into account that this is peak season and we have thousands of tourists on the island who all like to have long hot showers, while running every fan in the rooms, lights on, TV on, electronics charging, hairdryers drying, pool pumps pumping. While at the same time locals are finishing sports and work and are bathing, feeding kids and animals, washing dishes and clothes and getting ready for the next day.

Once the TAU experts found this little anomaly, they set the dial to the maximum to make sure it didn’t trip the whole national grid to save a ten-cent fuse. How hindsight thoughtful of them.

The trouble here is we are always paying experts to make decisions on what works for us, who don’t live here and don’t know what we need. Mind you this should have been a basic 101 step of how to set up a system that has excessive seasonal workloads during the winter months.

Added to the frustration of the power outages, we have TAU claiming no responsibility or accountability for all the disruption and damage they have caused during this upgrade. Power surges blowing out people’s televisions, phones, kettles and toasters.

Not our fault they say, you should have a surge protector on your plugs, they say – now. If TAU knew this new and improved system was going to give more efficient and stronger power delivery, why didn’t the experts predict this surge and its potential to damage existing appliances? Then they could have issued us a warning before work proceeded?

Now you can’t get your electronics fixed because there are so many damaged items, the technicians are overloaded. They are going to blow their own fuses trying to fix everything.

There are fewer number of personal visits to assess our actual power usage, so we are being overcharged with ‘estimates’ because funnily enough they are happy to assume we are going to use more power than we did the past months when they measured us, but they didn’t carry that logic forward to how it will affect the overall system. Brilliant.

Another fine example of state-owned enterprise - going where no man has gone before and installing and operating systems, they have no expertise to manage and maintain.

Former prime minister Henry Puna announced we would be self-sufficient by 2020. If we had done so at least the solar street lights would have worked.