Island-wide blackout plunges thousands into darkness - again


Tribune Staff Reporter

TRANSMISSION network failure and related issues caused an island-wide power cut that plunged thousands of New Providence residents into darkness on Friday for hours.

The power cut caused great embarrassment when it interrupted the final games of Battle 4 Atlantis, which was being shown live on ESPN. Atlantis released a rare statement saying the outage was extremely disruptive to its business.

“…(It) comes at a considerable cost to Atlantis,” an Atlantis spokesperson said. “The resort was close to 90 percent 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.”

BPL said a total system shutdown happened at 6.40pm.

“Subsequently, efforts to bring the system back from blackout conditions were advanced to about 75 percent of the network returned by 8.35pm when we suffered a setback due to a secondary problem requiring us restart restoration efforts,” BPL said in a statement. “Technical challenges during the second attempt at restoration delayed efforts as teams had to address an additional issue but we were able to return about 95 percent of the network power shortly after 11pm. Our standby and emergency teams were able to restore the remaining customers shortly thereafter. Additional repair crews have been dispatched to identify and repair the faults on the transmission network, but these are not affecting any customers.

“The cause of (the) outages has initially been identified as a failure on the transmission network. At this time the issue appears to have been initiated by a failure on the underground cable between our Big Pond station and our East Hill Street primary substation. The issue is now being investigated. To be clear, the initial cause of the outages was not a loss of generation, but a major fault on our transmission network. We have systems in place designed to limit the impact of such faults on individual circuits. However, those systems, which are designed to isolate the problem before it impacts the rest of the network, did not operate in time to save the network. This resulted in a cascading failure that led to the blackout conditions.”

At a press conference yesterday, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis said he was appraised of the blackout.

“It is essential that BPL be fixed,” he said. “BPL has been embarrassing us for over 30 years. We cannot continue to kick the can down the road. For decades BPL has been plagued by mismanagement, by waste, by corruption, by fraud. That must stop and we are about to stop it. Yes, we can kick the can down the road and patch it here or there but what we do know is that one day BPL is going to crash, which means your power is gonna be zero.”

The blackout came a day after the House of Assembly passed the Electricity Rate Reduction Bill 2019, which will allow the government to restructure BPL’s legacy debt. The bill will cause a $20 to $30 dollar increase to electricity bills, for 10 months next year, Minister of Works Desmond Bannister has said.