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Inconsistent power supply frustrates Pukapuka residents

Monday 9 January 2023 | Written by RNZ | Published in National, Outer Islands

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There is a growing frustration amongst residents of Pukapuka over the ongoing power failure issue affecting the northern group island for the past two years.

Residents told Cook Islands News issues with solar batteries and a faulty generator caused the ongoing power failure on the island.

A resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said the island didn’t have a backupgenerator.

They said the authorities on the island claimed the solar batteries were fine “but there’s something wrong with the system that shut the power off”.

“Sometimes we live without power at night, we used our generators for backup. Some families don’t have generators.”

Another resident claimed the authorities’ inability to fully replace the faulty solar batteries had disrupted regular power supply on the island.

“It started as a minor issue with solar batteries two years ago and I believe only some batteries were replaced. Late last year there was some problem with the (diesel) generator as well,” the resident said.

“We have been getting power at odd hours, sometimes from midnight till 11am. Even on some sunny day there is no power. The longest we have been without power was 12 hours.

“Ideally, I would like to have power in the mornings for breakfast, washing clothes and other chores. Most of my electrical appliances have gone bad (faulty) because of irregular power supply.”

The resident said the frozen goods including ice cream and other perishables that arrived by boat for Christmas and New Year had to be consumed before the celebrations.

“It’s getting worse, it’s unbelievable and really frustrating.”

Cook Islands Government said the power failures on the island have been ongoing and systemic with both the PV solar battery and diesel generator unable to meet the increasing demand.

Office of the Prime Minister spokesperson Jaewynn McKay said: “Government is looking into options for a new GenSet but ultimately will look to the battery replacement programme to address current and future needs.”

Pukapuka executive officer Pio Ravarua said they had replaced some of the defective solar batteries.

Ravarua said with the country now in cyclone season “there are more rain and cloudy periods and sometimes we’re not getting enough sun to store energy for solar power”.

He said electricity usage has also increased over the years with an increase in electrical appliances being used by the residents.

When funding was approved for the Pukapuka Nassau renewable energy project in 2013, the islands were promised of a constant 24-hour supply of renewable energy.

In an interview with RNZ in 2013, the director of Renewable Energy Development Tangi Tereapii, said: “This will be a 24-hour supply for the islands. As we know the supply now is only for 10, 12 hours a day, and we’ll be lucky if there's enough diesel on the island that can operate on and off throughout the month.”

“The project will provide all the necessities for the households. So it’s not like before where they’re limited. So now it’s an open opportunity for them to use electricity spread over 24 hours and also an opportunity for them to consider energy conservation at the same time.”

  • RK/RNZ