FEA should blame itself, not nature

26/08/2009 12:21

The Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA) should blame itself and its own internal incompetence for the failure of the $34million Butoni Wind Farm in Sigatoka. FEA has adopted the habit of blaming nature and everything else other than itself for its failures.

The “not enough wind” excuse given by FEA general manager operation, Eparama Tawake at the International Symposium on Renewable Energy at the University of the South Pacific on Monday (25/08/09) is just not acceptable. Now the excuse that there is not enough wind at Butoni is another example of FEA’s ‘blame nature’ tactic.  

Also the lame excuse that a thorough study was not undertaken is a gross failure on FEA’s part for not exercising due diligence. FEA was in a position to ensure a proper study was done after all it was a question of 34 million dollars at stake.

The Council wants FEA to explain why the failure of the Butoni Wind Farm was not raised earlier. It appears FEA had deliberately kept the issue hidden for the last two years. The Council understands that the wind farm’s problems began from the start when it was opened in October 2007. Despite this FEA did not disclose the fact that one of its joint venture partners, Pacific Hydro Limited (PHL) had pulled out of the project and had deemed it financially uneconomically. The Council cannot understand why FEA had not considered the advice of PHL, a proven and leading developer and operator of wind generation in Australia and Asia-Pacific.

FEA admission about the failure of the wind farm has damaged the confidence and trust of stakeholders – consumers, government, etc – in the authority’s ambitious renewable energy goal of generating up to 90% of Fiji’s power demand through renewable resources. FEA’s has clearly showed a lack of transparency regarding the Butoni project. Consumers’ hope for a decrease in dependence on diesel generation through alternative renewable energy sources is seriously being undermined.

Past management and Board of Directors should be held accountable. Such decision is a cost to the government as well as consumers who end up paying more for electricity. The Government should investigate this matter and take the decision –makers to task. This has been the trend from the time Monasavu Dam was made.

Meanwhile, consumers have to face an increase tariffs to meet FEA’s ability to repay its US$150million China Development Bank loan for the Nadarivatu hydro project and the impact of devaluation on the diesel price. Such increase can be avoided if FEA manages the resources wisely.