September 25, 2008

Power crisis as songas turbines collapse

Tanzania Electric Supply Company Limited (Tanesco) has announced new power rationing that will see industries and homes countrywide without electricity for five hours every day, following a major breakdown in generation. In a statement, Tanesco said electricity supply would be disconnected daily from 6pm to 11pm. The power firm has been plunged into a crisis after three turbines at the Songas power station in Ubungo, Dar es Salaam, which produce 110MW of power, suddenly collapsed.
Tanesco Managing Director Idris Rashidi told The Citizen that the rationing would continue until General Electric experts fix the problem and restore power generation by Songas. Songas spokesman Reuben Mwaikinda said General Electric, the suppliers of the turbines, had advised the company to shut down the station for the experts to establish the extent of the damage. He said they would be in a better position to give concrete information by the end of the week.
According to the press statement issued by Tanesco's spokesperson, Ms Badra Masoud, the three turbines at Songas suddenly collapsed. "The collapse of the turbines has caused a loss of 110MW in electricity generation, which accounts for 16 per cent of peak demand," she said. The company said an attempt to remedy the situation had failed, as a combination of its hydropower and natural gas sources still fell short by 40MW. The rationing, Ms Masoud said, would cover the whole country. A comprehensive timetable is expected to be issued today. Last evening, Dar es Salaam, the country's main production and manufacturing hub, was spared the rationing, but will be affected as the full programme starts.
This will rekindle the bitter memories of the prolonged rationing between 2006 and 2007 that saw the country suffer one of its worst power shortage crises ever. Then, falling water levels in the hydroelectric dams were blamed for the almost day and night-long rationing that adversely affected industries and homes in the whole country.
The breakdown at Songas may take more than a month to repair, if the experience of 2006 is anything to go by. It was during the 2006 power crisis that the now infamous Richmond 100MW emergency power contract for $172.9 million was initiated. Controversy over the deal later snowballed into a corruption scandal that led to the resignation of Mr Edward Lowassa as Prime Minister. It also cost the jobs of former ministers Nazir Karamagi (Energy and Minerals) and Dr Ibrahim Msabaha (East African Co-operation).
The Government has since terminated the contract of Dowans, the company that inherited the tainted Richmond contact. This followed a report of the parliamentary select committee, which found that Richmond was a briefcase outfit, which could not execute the multimillion-shilling emergency power generation project, it had been fraudulently awarded. (The Citizen, Dar es Salaam)

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