Nine months after 130,000 Barbados Light & Power Company customers were left without electricity over two days, they have been told they will have to wait at least another month to know if compensation is likely.
The Fair Trading Commission (FTC) said it was in the final phase of its investigation into the nationwide electricity outages of November 2019, adding that “a determination on the matter [is] expected by the end of this quarter”.
“It is anticipated that the Commission’s determination will be made by the end of September 2020, at which time it will be shared with the public,” the FTC said in a statement on its website.
On Monday, November 18, many Barbadians woke up to an island-wide blackout just before 7:30 a.m.
The BL&P later said initial investigations revealed that contaminated fuel, compounded by aging generators – half of which were past “retirement age” – were to blame for the outage.
Power had been restored to about half of the nation by 3 p.m. that day although the restoration began just over an hour after the power outage began. Full restoration came around 11:10 p.m.
But the next day, the utility company reported that one of its large diesel engines shut down due to a stuck fuel pump overnight leaving customers again without electricity for several hours.
The FTC said its investigations involved “the review of the circumstances which contributed to the outages, as well as the mitigation measures engaged, and response undertaken by the Barbados Light and Power Company Limited (BL&P)”.
The FTC said: “The Commission also assessed whether the occurrence of the outages breached the Utilities Regulation Act, Cap. 282 or any other law which the Commission administers; or the Commission’s BL&P Standards of Service Decision 2018-2020. Matters related to service delivery, damage claims and customer compensation were also considered.”
It added that subsequent to the completion of its Preliminary Findings Report in May 2020, the BL&P was afforded the opportunity to respond to the report.
“The BL&P’s response document is currently under review, following which the Commission’s final determination will be issued,” the FTC said.
Following the second day of the power outage, Prime Minister Mia Mottley described the occurrence as unacceptable and embarrassing and summoned the electric utility company’s management to a meeting.
Mottley suggested that compensation could be one of the considerations.
But she said at the time that the focus was to bring generators in as quickly as possible and that the cost of renting the equipment would not be passed on to customers.
Mottley said: “We understand the importance of it [compensation] and our BL&P team will look into it and will assess it and we will be talking to our customers, but our first focus primarily is to restore the confidence of the facilities that we are operating to assure Barbados and the system is functional.”
In its preliminary report in May, the FTC did indicate that its decision on the matter would be based on whether the BL&P took reasonable action prior to and following the outages, whether the law and standards of service had been broken, the commission’s internal review, a final report and the submission of the findings report to Light & Power.