August 8, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

July 26, 2011 Pohnpei, FSM-Pohnpei's Governor John Ehsa held a press conference this afternoon to announce a proposed new method of handling Pohnpei's difficult power situation.

He said that on January 21, 2009, the Board of Directors of the Pohnpei Utilities Corporation formally informed him that an emergency situation existed regarding the power generation capacities of PUC. He said that he and his staff have been working on potential solutions to the power generation problem as a result of emergency declaration and that in May, Pohnpei State, PUC, and Micronesia Petroleum Corporation (formerly known as PetroCorp now is branding itself under the name Vital) signed an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to develop a plan for Vital to generate power for Pohnpei State.

Governor Ehsa said that new portable low speed long term generators would be situated in Dekehtik.

He said that the law provides only that PUC must provide power distribution for the State and there is nothing that would prevent anyone from generating power. Though the plan will take quite some time to develop he said that it made sense to go to the company that has all of the oil to provide power services as well. He said that the MOU is the cost effective solution to the problem. When Vital has met its five year exclusive purchase obligation to Mobil Oil Company the company has already identified shipping logistics measures that will land fuel in the FSM at a lower shipping cost than they currently can get.

Vital, at a community orientation at their Pohnpei plant a few weeks ago said that it is looking also to move into renewable energy generation. Though that plan may take some time to develop it would certainly ultimately help the cost effectiveness of power generation for Pohnpei State.

Governor Ehsa has signed other MOU's in the past regarding Pohnpei Power generation. He signed an MOU with a Chinese company to refurbish and run a hydroelectric plant on the Nanpil River. The PUC Board of Directors overruled that plan. When asked if he was concerned that might happen again he said, "To be honest, I'm afraid that might happen. I don't want it to happen and I'm personally involved in this agreement," he said.

He also said that the PUC Board of Directors and PUC General Manager need to sign the MOU along with PUC's legal counsel.

There is a grant involved in the formation of the plan for Vital power generation. Details were not clear on that grant which would come to Pohnpei State from a foreign government. Grants that come to Pohnpei from foreign sources have to be accepted by the FSM National Government at the FSM Congress. Grants are subject to split amongst the FSM States even if the granting source did not intend for that to happen.

Even if everything was in place right now, which it is not, Governor Ehsa said that it would be at least 8 months before one 1.6 to 1.8 megawatt containerized generator might arrive.