The controversial Cahill waste-to-energy project’s fiasco left Barbados Light and Power stuck with outdated generators, triggering a rash of blackouts, the electric company’s managing director revealed tonight.
The Canadian company’s plans to convert waste to energy was one of two major energy projects BL&P had been banking on to meet much of the island’s electricity needs, BL&P’s Roger Blackman said.
He explained that while most of the BL&P’s generators were past their due retirement, this was only because the company did not see a need to purchase new equipment after the then Democratic Labour Party (DLP) administration had assured that two projects would be coming on stream.
When questioned by Prime Minister Mia Mottley in a meeting, Blackman revealed: “In terms of the decision around replacement versus reinvestment or life extension, there are a number of factors; one of which a few years ago was a decision to develop a waste-to-energy plant at Vaucluse to produce something in the order of 40 megawatts and a biomass plant at Andrews. That waste-to-energy plant was the Cahill plant.
“So plans were in place and the Government at the time had identified that location and that capacity, as well as the 20 megawatts biomass plant.
“That generating capacity would have allowed us to retire some of the existing generating capacity that is in place.
“So in light of those decisions which had been made at the time, it was prudent for us to reinvest in what we had.”
Blackman said the fact that Barbados had also signalled its intention to move towards renewable energy at that time also played a significant role in the BL&P’s decision to repair some of its aging generators rather than buy new ones.
He said those kinds of investments usually proved to be long term.
Blackman said: “The country was on a path of renewable energy and decarbonization and generating investments tend to be 25-year to 30-year investments.
“You have to consider those very carefully in an environment where within ten years you’re going to be carbon-free.
“So given that those big renewable projects were earmarked, given that the country was clearly on a path of decarbonization and going to zero carbon, the decision was taken at the time to reinvest and extend the life of the fossil fuel plant that is already there.”
Chairman of BL&P and chief operating officer of Emera Caribbean, BL&P’s parent company, Rick Janega acknowledged that he was concerned with the current state of the BL&P.
But he promised that everything was being done to provide a reliable service to its customers.
Janega said: “Let me start by reiterating our dissatisfaction with the state that we are in right now, but Roger [Blackman] and the team at the BL&P are a dedicated and committed workforce that have been working tirelessly to keep this event from occurring.
“We have been dealing with some extraordinary issues at the plant related to fuel oil issues that we believe are at the root of it.
“They have unfortunately harmed us that it has caused interruptions with other issues on the system that we have been able to manage through in the past without a significant effect on the system.”
He continued: “Our objective is to make the supply of electricity a seamless interaction for customers and we have given our commitment to Barbados that we will continue to work with every level of resource available and that we can find to expedite the additional generation.
“We will not stop until we have things restored to the state customers expect.”