There was a time when island wide power outages were very few and far between. Unfortunately, in recent times, such occurrences occur more often than they should.
An outage today resulted in the closure of schools and public offices around 1:30 p.m. And, of course, with thousands of students not in class, the private sector too was drastically affected.
For the Barbados Light & Power Company Ltd (BLPC), it may have been seen as a “disruption” in service, but many irate Bajans viewed it as a major inconvenience – and rightly so.
As the clock ticked and the minutes turned to hours, customers’ tolerance of the situation dwindled. And while BLPC, through their social media pages, did a good job of keeping the public abreast of what was happening, for many Barbadians no explanation was good enough.
For them, it did not matter if the source of the problem was a monkey or a fault on BLPC’s 24KV transmission line in St Thomas, as was the case today.
A statement issued by the company in the evening read, in part: “We can confirm that the outage was the result of a fault on our 24KV transmission line in St Thomas, which then caused the system to cascade. The process to restore commenced within the hour; however, it was hindered by system stability challenges which we are investigating. As a result, some customers would have experienced intermittent outages during restoration. We are currently about 60 per cent restored and will continue to work to restore power to all customers as safely as possible. We know you count on us for safe, reliable electricity, and we apologise for this interruption in service today.”
BLPC reported that power was fully restored around 8 p.m.
Truth is, customers are more forgiving and understanding if the outage occurs as a result of a natural disaster. However, the explanations and admissions of faults always raise concerns about the maintenance and condition of key machinery.
The issue of the rate increase the BLPC is currently seeking always comes to the fore in situations like these, with many suggesting the outages are the company’s way of putting pressure on the powers that be to grant the increase.
The conversations then move to the fact that BLPC lost valuable systems knowledge during the restructuring period in 2010 when Emera took over.
Strangely so, since at the time Bajans were promised continued efficient service.
“The combined knowledge and experience of Emera and LPH in the electric utility business will maintain and enhance the technical strength and future prospects of BLPC for the continued benefit of electricity customers in Barbados,” the power company had said in a statement. These words ring hollow on a day like today, with temperatures high and Bajans trying to cope with a heat wave however they can.
The inability to get a cold cup of water to quench your thirst is a bugbear.
The inconvenience of not being able to plug in a fan or turn on an AC unit is real.
The lack of Internet connectivity which is vital to all business operations should not be.
The telecoms landlines being offline is unacceptable, especially for a country with an ageing population where people of a certain age and vulnerability only use landlines to stay connected.
Added to all of that, an island wide power outage cripples Barbados’ productivity sector in a major way. Hours of work and commerce are lost.
Our country can ill afford such. The effects of the outage are far-reaching, and while we don’t doubt that BLPC is aware of this, they should be held accountable.
Over time, we have all recorded increases in our light bills. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for customers to demand an increase or improvement in services delivered as well.
Many were on the BLPC’s social media complaining major appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines and televisions had been damaged due to previous outages. They lamented the fact that the process for compensation was laborious and, in fact, some are still waiting. A few customers queried the possibility of a rebate for the hours of service lost.
So while BLPC offers technical explanations as to why the power is out, we need to hear what systems are being put in place to ensure that customers are reimbursed for an appliance lost. More importantly, we need to know that BLPC is doing everything possible to reduce these frequent island-wide power outages.