Underscores need for transmission and distribution network
NASSAU, BAHAMAS- Bahamas Power & Light’s (BPL) Black Friday ‘blackout’ further underscores the need for immediate investment in the company’s transmission and distribution network according to a Chamber of Commerce executive, stating, “This is just totally unacceptable”.
The outage came at the worst possible time for the Atlantis resort which was hosting its popular annual pre-season Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, televised on ESPN. The resort in a statement on the outage described the incident as, “extremely disruptive to our business and comes at considerable cost to Atlantis. The Resort was close to 90 per cent occupancy and the irregular dips in power caused our backup generators to fail resulting in extreme inconvenience to our many guests. For the first time since Hurricane Dorian business was close to 2018 levels. This recurring power problem is most unfortunate especially given that the company has offered to deploy interim solutions and BPL has repeatedly rejected them. This blackout received international coverage on ESPN as it occurred during the final games of Battle 4 Atlantis.”
Debby Deal, Chair of Energy and Environment Committee at the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation told Eyewitness News Online, “That showed how important transmission and distribution is. No matter what brand new engines you have you have to be able to get electricity to your consumers. We have the greatest number of customers on New Providence. There are new areas that tie into older communities. If you don’t have transmission you can’t have distribution. It doesn’t matter how great your engines are or how efficient your fuel is if you can’t get the power to where it’s going to go. This is just totally unacceptable. They want us to buy into this rate reduction bond but how are we going to eliminate these type of problems. It’s really is like there is not a proper plan.”
BPL said in a statement that it experienced a “total system shutdown” Friday night around 6.40 pm. The cause of the outage it said was as a result of a failure on the transmission network, initiated by a failure on an underground cable between its Big Pond station and its East Hill Street primary substation. BPL consumers have been plagued with frequent load shedding in recent months as the utility has struggled to meet generation demand, with unexpected malfunctions, failed equipment and the inability to readily find replacement parts for older machines compounding its challenges. The company expects its $95 million 132MW power Clifton plant by Finnish technology group Wartsilla to be operational by December 15.
Still, as Deal has noted and echoing sentiments by Bahamas Electrical Workers Union (BEWU)president Paul Maynard, the transmission and distribution system must be upgraded. According to a timetable outlined by Works Minister Desmond Bannister in Parliament last week, $48.1 million will be invested come 2021 in 132kV transmission and substation upgrades, which will ensure that “additional capacity reaches the grid efficiently and therefore help eliminate load shedding and reducing blackouts due to substation failures.”