An Australian volunteer who was doing whatever volunteers do in PNG.
I was there for 2 years until Dec 2005 .. I hope I made the most of it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Current Power Saga

Life in a developing country obviously has it's issues. And so it is that we are currently having a drama with the reliability of power.

Last year the blackouts were numerous. You could usually count on the power switching itself off at some point during a week, but not really for more than an hour. At the moment it is a different story.

It started with a typical weekend of scheduled outages. PNG Power, the national electrical supplier, announced that it would be conducting power shedding on the weekend, so maintenance could be performed upon a generator or two at the Yonki hydro power station, the power station that supplies, Lae, Madang and Goroka.

This is not so untypical. There were quite a few of these last year. The uni however seems to cop it more than other parts of the city. PNG Power supposedly has a two hour on and two hour off rotation system, but it usually more like one hour on and 3-4 hours off here. Overnight on Saturday night we had 13 hours off. It gave me a chance to defrost the ice out of my freezer on Sunday morning though as it was already happening.

So on Monday morning when the power is supposed to return, I am just about to walk into my office when I hear an almighty bang. It comes from the next building. I turn around have a look, expecting to see smoke, check to see smoke, hear some laughter, so I end up walk into my building and putting it down to someone blowing up a TV, as the building is the electrical engineering departments.

Later it turns out the bang was from a step-down transformer that just so happens to provide power for about three building including ours. So when the rest of the university's power came back online at 9 from the scheduled outages, we were still in the dark. It is a bit hard to finish off my reports or write some work instructions up when I have no juice to run my computer. So in the end we did as much as possible and then went for a run into town.

The word from the electrical engineering department turns out that it could take all week to fix the transformer. They basically need a new one from PNG Power, who don't have one at present. So on Tuesday we arrange to get a generator hooked up to our office which enables me to get the files I need off my PC which I then take home to work on my laptop.

As I am heading home yesterday, I discover that the rest of the university is without power as well. I ask someone what the story is with it this time and it now turns out that the uni has not paid its power bill! PNG Power had just switched the whole administrative campus off.

This happens regularly in PNG. It seems even institutions here are not so reliable at paying their bills. Last year the government did not pay it's power bill so they switched off the power to parliament house while they were having a session. Out of note, PNG Power will give you one month to pay your bill before they do the switch off.

Luckily I keep my bill paid so I currently have power at home, which is where I am currently typing this up. This morning I rang up my boss to check if the transformer was fixed found out it wasn't so decided to stay at home and work.

Ahh the joys of a developing country.