By 8:30 tonight, power to all of the nation had been fully restored.
But after two straight days of blackouts triggered schools to close, businesses to shut up shop and left consumers fuming, Prime Minister Mia Mottley this evening publicly declared that “it must never happen again”.
She said: “While that is absolutely good news this Government will not accept anything less than absolute resilience and redundancy in the provision of power to the people of this nation.
“We have worked too hard as a Government over the course of the last 18 months to stabilize this nation from its greatest threat, which was in fact the value of our dollar and which would have decimated every household and every Barbadian business.”
Mottley made the statement moments after meeting with Barbados Light and Power (BL&P) executives and senior civil servants at Government Headquarters for just over an hour and a half.
She said Government would ensure that the people of Barbados were provided with quality service, even as the electric company said it would take as much as a year and a half to replace aging generators.
She revealed that as a short-term fix, Light and Power employees are working around the clock, while generators would be rented by the BL&P to back-up its supplies.
She said: “I think we have shared our perspective as a Government with the BL&P and they have agreed in principle that we will work together to make sure that whatever is done, including 24-hour days, including multiple teams, that we will look and revisit every assumption that has been made that would otherwise see new generation capacity not coming onboard for another 12-18 months. This we believe is not tenable.
“We are going to manage this over the course of the next few days, but we have enough information before us to know that the question will be whether they can procure generating capacity immediately tomorrow, or whether they will have to rent in the interim for a few weeks and have generating capacity brought on the island while they procure the permanent one that will give the country at least the comfort of another minimum of 30 megwatts of power.”
Mottley said it was simply “not acceptable” that the last time the BL&P purchased new generators was 14 years ago.
The Prime Minister said while the issue of compensation would be on the minds of most Barbadians, that issue would be addressed at a later date.
She said the BL&P was scheduled to hold a board meeting tomorrow where that issue would be discussed.
Mottley said she would be in a better position to speak on any possible forms of compensation following that meeting.
In issuing a heartfelt apology to the its customers, BL&P’s managing director Roger Blackman explained that a series of “extraordinary” events had led to the power outages.
He disclosed that those outages originated due to a failed switch at one of BL&P’s sub stations at the Spring Garden plant on Monday and again this morning.
Blackman also pointed to contaminated fuel as one of the reasons for the malfunction of equipment.
And while he revealed that electricity had been completely restored across the island, he hinted that customers were still not out of the woods yet.
Blackman explained: “At this point in time we have sufficient capacity to satisfy the demand but it is a delicate situation because a significant portion of our units run on heavy fuel oil and those units have been shutting down from time to time due to fuel equipment failures, so we have been working to ensure that when one fails we have it back up as quickly as possible and before the next one is down.
“We have the teams in place and we will be looking to bring in additional expertise as well to help us address the situation and manage while we work on quick and short-term fixes in relation to expediting additional capacity on the network.”
James Browne, the general manager of the Barbados National Oil Company Limited (BNOCL), the government fuel supplier to the BL&P, said this was the first time any significant incident had occurred.
He said the BL&P was concerned that new streams of phenol and aldehydes were contaminating the fuels, triggering the turbine shutdowns.
Browne maintained that while tests were being done on the remaining 4,000 cubic metres of fuel left, he said BNOCL had also been in contact with its suppliers to ensure there would be no recurrence of dirty fuel.