Despite power and water outages, GPA, GWA claim Guam is capable of meeting increased demand
By Frank Whitman
The buildup of military forces and facilities on Guam is resulting in an increase of the island’s population by thousands and growing demand on the island’s infrastructure. Recent power and water outages have caused some to wonder whether Guam’s utilities have the capacity to support the growth expected from the buildup and related activity.
The heads of Guam’s utility agencies say they have - or will have – capacity to meet the island population’s power and water needs now and for the foreseeable future. Plans being implemented by both the Guam Waterworks Authority and the Guam Power Authority include meeting the needs of not only the island’s current population but also those of the anticipated influx related to the growing presence of U.S. military personnel.
The round of water outages following the passage of Typhoon Mawar is related to damage from the storm and is not indicative of capacity shortfall, officials said. “The ability of any utility to meet the needs of the population it serves has no direct correlation to the occurrence of outages that result from a natural disaster,” Miguel Bordallo, general manager of GWA, stated in an email to Pacific Island Times. “GWA has more than sufficient water production capacity to meet the current demand of its customer base.”
The primary source of Guam’s water, its aquifer, is monitored and appears to be able to meet the island’s current and future needs, Bordallo said. “Studies by the Water and Environmental Research Institute of the University of Guam indicate that current withdrawals are below the maximum yield of the northern Guam lens aquifer,” he said. And as GWA improves its system and reduces loss due to leakage, production capacity will increase without the need to increase withdrawal rates from the aquifer.
GWA’s wastewater treatment system also has more than enough capacity for the treatment of current loads, and is “already configured for expansion if additional capacity is required.”
Bordallo acknowledged there may be some “isolated” areas in which water distribution or wastewater collection are affected by military development. “These can be addressed during construction permitting, through existing system development charges or off-site infrastructure improvement requirements,” he said.
In anticipation of future needs, including the anticipated population increase, GWA is implementing its 20-year 2018 Water Resources Master Plan. The plan also includes capital improvement project planning and prioritization. “These CIPs have also been included in GWA’s five-year financial plan and capital improvement program fiscal. 2020-24,” he said. “A new five-year plan is in development currently. Implementation of these CIPs will continue, provided that adequate rate increases are approved by the Public Utilities Commission to fund GWA’s capital improvement program.”
GPA is expecting its new 198-megawatt Ukudu generator as well as several renewable-fuel energy projects - once online – to enable it to meet the increased power demand of the military buildup, and bring a measure of stability to the islandwide power system.
However, Typhoon Mawar took its toll on GPA’s plans to begin operating the Ukudu generator in 2024. The generator was well on its way to becoming operable when the storm damaged two fuel storage tanks possibly setting plans for the generator back at least a year.
Once the Ukudu generator comes online, GPA plans to retire its current aging power plants, the poor condition of which is a primary cause of the ongoing outages.
The new generator is expected to allow for a reduced, affordable fuel Levelized Energy Adjustment Clause, (LEAC, the portion of consumer power bills used to pay for fuel for the generators), a stronger power grid system, and reduced sulfur dioxide emissions, according to an email from GPA.
The Ukudu generator is one part of GPA’s Clean Energy Master Plan “for transitioning Guam from legacy fossil fuel-fired generation to renewable energy and nongreenhouse-gas emissions energy supply. The technology of the Ukudu base load power plant will allow the burning of cleaner fuel from two sources: ultra-low sulfur diesel and liquefied natural gas, saving millions of dollars in fuel costs,” GPA officials stated.
GPA is also in the process of awarding its Phase IV renewable energy project. The request for proposals was issued in December 2022. It is expected to be awarded in early 2024, and to be in operation in 2027. The project is to provide an aggregate of 180 megawatts of solar-generated power with battery energy storage systems for about 14 cents per kilowatt hour.
The Phase IV project will join GPA’s 5-megawatt solar power array in Dandan and its 60-megawatt solar project in Pagat, both of which suffered relatively minor damage during Mawar and have returned to operation. The Dandan and Pagat projects, however, do not have battery storage and so produce less or no power when the sun is not shining.
“The Phase IV 180 MW renewable energy bid along with the new Ukudu Power Plant will ensure lowered costs for ratepayers in the future, improve our air quality and prepare our island’s power infrastructure to handle the additional load brought upon by the military buildup,” the GPA official said.
Guam has a total population of about 170,000 of whom about 11,600 are Department of Defense personnel including active-duty service members, National Guard members, reservists and civilian DoD employees.
Under the original 2006 agreement between the U.S. and Japan, 8,000 Marines and 9,000 dependents were scheduled to be relocated from Okinawa to Guam. In a 2009 report, the Government Accountability Office noted the limited infrastructure on Guam. “Existing utility systems on Guam are currently near or at their maximum capacities and will require significant enhancements to meet anticipated demands of the expanding U.S. military population resulting from DoD’s planned buildup,” GAO stated in its report.
Uncertainties over Guam’s capacity to accommodate a large increase in the population prompted a revision of the Marines’ $7.8 billion relocation plan. In 2012, the U.S. and Japan agreed to reduce the number of Marines to be relocated from 8,000 to 5,000.
A new report, however, showed that the deployment would be larger than the number indicated in the revised agreement.
According to a 45-page report published Aug. 3 by the Congressional Research Service titled “Guam: Infrastructure and Readiness,” the Marine Corps plans to relocate 2,500 service members to Guam by 2026, and 5,000 by 2028. In addition, about 1,500 Marine Corps family members are to be relocated to Guam. Marines and their families will begin moving from Okinawa to Guam in 2024. DoD also recently announced plans to form a 360-degree missile defense system in Guam, which will likely require 700 service members.
The 2024 National Defense Authorization Act marked up by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources cited the exploration of modular microreactors to supplement power generation on Guam.
“The committee has long supported DoD efforts to develop and operationalize modular microreactors, such as Project Pele, as a means of improving operational energy supplies for the U.S. military in a sustainable, environmentally sound manner,” the spending policy measure states.
“Accordingly, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense “to brief the congressional defense committees, not later than March 1, 2024, on the potential for using modular microreactors to support U.S. forces in Guam,” and to “assess the potential for directly supplementing Guam’s civilian power generation capacity through the use of modular microreactors.” (With additional reports from Mar-Vic Cagurangan)