As another Tropical Cyclone is upon us, power outages and black outs are anticipated.

The following are some reminders by Energy Fiji Limited explaining what happens when power has to be restored after a tropical cyclone.

During cyclones an electricity network is impacted, particularly overhead power lines that could be broken, poles may have fallen and or displaced and trees falling on power lines.

For safety reasons, each and every metre of the overhead power line is inspected and confirmed safe, as well as a visual confirmation that there are no damages to any house supplied by the EFL grid before the power line is repaired and then switched on.

There has to be a positive safety confirmation that the power lines and houses are not damaged. Otherwise EFL could be livening up an unsafe power line or customer service mains and causing an electrical incident and/or accident which could lead to fatality or electrical fires that could damage property.

The EFL Cyclone Action Plan lists down the actions that needs to be taken before, during and after a cyclone by the various strategic business units (SBU) within EFL.

Each SBU, as part of the Cyclone Action Plan, conducts desktop exercises to simulate the actions that need to be taken in the event of a cyclone.

The Cyclone Action Plans are reviewed annually to ensure learnings are captured in the updated document, and communicated to the personnel who are involved in the cyclone restoration work.

The Cyclone Action Plan also lists down the priority areas for restoration of power supply following a cyclone event. The priority areas for power restoration are as follows:

  1. Major Hospitals and Health Centers
  2. Water Pumping Stations, Water & Sewerage Treatment Plants (WAF) – for stations without Generator backup
  3. Central Business Districts, Commercial & Industrial Areas
  4. Residential Areas

Before EFL can commence restoration of power supply to customers, EFL needs to ensure that generating stations, transmission lines, sub-transmission lines and distribution lines are in safe operational order.

To this effect a helicopter is reserved by EFL immediately upon the declaration of a Cyclone Warning to patrol the main 132,000volts transmission lines and the 33,000volts sub transmission lines in Viti Levu once the cyclone has passed and the weather permits.

Immediately following a cyclone event, if required, a helicopter patrol is carried out of our 132kV overhead transmission lines from the Wailoa Power Station to the Vuda Zone Substation in Lautoka and from the Wailoa Power Station to the Cunningham Road Zone Substation in Suva which stretches some 147.2km.

In addition to this, the 33kV overhead sub-transmission lines are also patrolled using the helicopter. The sub-transmission lines run from Korolevu to Rakiraki, from Deuba to Wailekutu, from Cunningham Road to Sawani, from Sawani to Nausori and from Kinoya to Nausori and the overhead power lines add up to 387.78km.

Once the 132kV overhead transmission lines and the 33kV overhead sub-transmission lines have been thoroughly patrolled in Viti Levu, defects identified during the helicopter patrol are promptly programmed for priority repairs.

While the helicopter patrol is underway, diesel generating stations at Kinoya, Korovou, Deuba, Sigatoka, Vuda and Rakiraki in Viti Levu are started as soon as they are checked and confirmed to be safe for operations, and power restoration to the distribution network commences to the priority areas as stated above as long as the power network to these areas has not been damaged or if damaged, repaired have to be carried out as priority.

There are some 7,440.75km of overhead distribution power lines in Viti Levu that needs to be patrolled and inspected using vehicles, boats and on feet as required. Damaged portions of the power line network is isolated and repaired before it is energized.

Restoration of Power Supply in Vanua Levu

Vanua Levu has a single 33kV overhead circuit running from the Cawaira Power Station all the way to Dreketi via Seaqaqa stretching some 68.11km.

While the inspection and repairs are underway, the Cawaira Power Station (Labasa), the Wainiqeu Mini Hydro Electric Power Station (Savusavu) and Savusavu Power Stations are checked and confirmed to be safe for operations, and power restoration to the distribution network commences to the priority areas as stated above as long as the power network to these areas has not been damaged or if damaged, repairs have to be carried out as priority.

There are some 1,743.58km of overhead distribution power lines in Vanua Levu (Labasa & Savusavu) that need to be patrolled and inspected using vehicles, boats and on foot, as required. Damaged portions of the power line network are isolated and repaired before they are energized.

Restoration of Power Supply in Ovalau

There are some 109.41km of overhead distribution power lines in Ovalau that need to be patrolled and inspected using vehicles. Damaged portions of the power line network are isolated and repaired before they are energized.

While the inspection and repairs are underway, the Levuka Power Station is checked and confirmed to be safe for operations, and power restoration to the distribution network commences to the priority areas as stated above as long as the power network to these areas has not been damaged or if damaged, repairs have to be carried out as priority.

Restoration of Power Supply in Taveuni

As for Taveuni, there are some 55.35km of overhead distribution power lines that need to be patrolled and inspected using vehicles. Damaged portions of the power line network are isolated and repaired before they are energized.

While the inspection and repairs are underway, the Somosomo Hydro Electric Power Station and the Waiyevo Power Station are checked and confirmed to be safe for operations, and power restoration to the distribution network commences to the priority areas as stated above as long as the power network to these areas has not been damaged or if damaged, repairs have to be carried out as priority. 

Restoration of Power Supply to Our Customers

Damage Assessment

EFL has some 9,947.68km of overhead distribution lines in the four main islands served by EFL which need to be certified safe by duly certified personnel prior to livening up.

Depending on the ferocity of the cyclone (Cyclone category, path of the cyclone, speed of the cyclone, volume of rain associated with the cyclone) survey of the EFL grid in the CBD and Suburbs could take anywhere from 3 to 7 days to complete. Repairs to damaged network in the CBD would commence within 1 day following the all-clear.

Survey of the electricity network in the peri-urban and rural areas could take anywhere from 1 week to 3 weeks to complete depending on the damages, and repair works would commence there-after based on available resources.

Restoration Timelines

It could take at least three days after the cyclone all-clear is issued by the Fiji Meteorological Service and/or DISMAC and the helicopter patrol of the overhead power lines has been carried out before EFL would be in a position to advise customers of expected restoration times, and this would be communicated to our customers via various communication mediums and updated daily.

Repairs are carried out along the main lines to the priority areas. Faulty parts of the overhead lines are isolated and programmed for repairs, while teams move on to restore supply to other priority areas.

The faulty lines that are isolated are programmed for repairs by either EFL teams or EFL Contractors, and are addressed after supply has been restored to the Major Hospitals & Health Centres and Water Pumping Stations, Water & Sewerage Treatment Plants.

With power restored to priority areas, there may be cases in some areas where, some customers may have their supply connected while supply may be off for some customers where there are damages to line hardware. These customers may be affected for a number of days as contractors and EFL teams focus on restoring supply to other priority areas.

The time it takes for power lines to be repaired depends largely on two key factors namely;

  1. The extent of damages,
  2. Access to the damaged power lines (lack of access due to flooding, landslides, etc).

Customers may also experience delays in restoration of power supply in the event of damages to their service mains or their properties. In this case, the customer needs to get in touch with a licensed electrical contractor to assess the damage, lodge a permit with the Regulatory Unit of EFL and carry out necessary repairs at the cost of the customer. Once repairs are completed, the electrical contractor will contact the EFL Inspectors to organize connection of power supply.

Finally, in the process of restoring power supply to priority areas, customers whose supply lines are safe may get their supply restored earlier than others. There may also be instances where one side of the street has electricity while the other side does not, depending on the respective supply point and supply route. This does not mean favoritism to some customers over others; it is just an unintended benefit of their location along the power line route to the priority areas.

We seek the patience, cooperation and understanding of our valued customers as we will always continue to safely inspect, repair and energize the EFL power system after a Cyclone, while maintaining the required standards of safety, security and quality of power supply.

 

 

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