By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie yesterday bemoaned Bahamas Power and Light’s inability to provide uninterrupted electricity supply to the island, telling The Tribune he was not only “distressed” by the outages, but that he ordered a probe to uncover the root cause of the most recent island-wide power cut.
Mr Christie suggested that the latest mass disruption had brought the government embarrassment as it took place the day before the opening ceremony of an international civil aviation conference, which began yesterday at the Kendal Isaacs National Gymnasium.
While the prime minister said he was unofficially advised that the incident was the result of “human error,” he insisted that it was too “catastrophic” and “unusual” to let it pass without the “highest investigation”.
Mr Christie’s position regarding BPL’s service inconsistency is in stark contrast to that of his Deputy Prime Minister Philip Brave Davis, who is also minister of works.
In a recent interview, Mr Davis backed the electricity provider saying he has “no regrets” over handing over the day-to-day operations of the former Bahamas Electricity Corporation (BEC) to American company PowerSecure.
He told this newspaper he thinks BPL is “meeting its mandate” and blamed the constant power outages on “aged machines”.
“I am as distressed about this as every Bahamian,” Mr Christie said when he was asked by The Tribune to give Bahamians a word of comfort when it came to the constant outages, which have angered many.
He spoke on the sidelines of the opening ceremony for the ninth International Civil Aviation Organisation Air Services Agreement. Several hundred representatives from around the world are attending the five-day event at the gymnasium.
He continued: “I spent yesterday (Sunday) between church services and public functions talking to all of the persons that I could with respect to the cause of it. I have asked them, I know that they are troubleshooting now to determine. I have been advised that this could be human error and I have a view on that and I am asking them to investigate it to determine what happened and I am too concerned about a Sunday afternoon when people are home.
“When internationally events are taking place at Fort Montagu. Where people of world prominence are in the Bahamas. When Bahamians are home watching sports as they do. But this happened for the second time in a week. That is too catastrophic, too unusual and is deserving of the highest investigation.
“I have been unofficially advised at this point that it’s human error. I want to see what that really means…human error because to me it is just too amazing to have happened twice in a week.”
There have been three blackouts and frequent disruptions in supply for several days. Sunday’s outage followed a weekend of power issues as residents complained of intermittent outages on Friday and Saturday.
Last Thursday, BPL blamed a “damaged underground cable” for blackouts on Tuesday and Wednesday and customers were warned at the time that they might experience “intermittent challenges with their power supply until operations have stabilised.”
When asked about BPL’s challenges last week Mr Davis said: “I have no regrets, because I think BPL is meeting its mandate as we have outlined it.
“The challenge has been we still have the aged engines and we have not been able to address them in the way we had anticipated much earlier. That requires capital. Remembering that BPL is still a Bahamian-owned entity and they look to government for the raising of their capital, therein lies the challenge at the moment. We need to be able to replace the aged engines and that is what is giving us the challenge that we have today.
“I think reliability has been improved. What I say to residents that you would have seen improvements in reliability, you would have seen improvements in the bottom line of your bills since 2012. Take heart from that to realise that we will fulfil the other end of the bargain, that is reliable generation, which will come and replace those engines that are aged.”
At around 2pm on Sunday, New Providence was plagued by a power cut. When The Tribune spoke to President of the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union Paul Maynard around 4.30pm, he indicated that the company “had no idea” what caused the problem.
“All we know right know is that several engines shut down at Baillou Hill (power station) and we are trying to get them back on but these engines are old, there is only so much we can do,” he said.
BPL posted updates about the blackout on its Facebook page.
Around 4pm, the company said BPL said teams were working to restart engines and eventually begin restoring power to customers.
“BPL apologises for the system instability issues today and in the past few days and assures you that every reasonable effort is being made to correct the problems. We will continue to update you on the progress of our restoration effort,” the brief statement said.
Around 7.30pm, BPL said it had started restoring power to some areas as it asked for patience, saying the process would be a slow one.
“Despite some challenges restarting engines, BPL has managed to get several units back up and running and has started to restore power in New Providence,” the company said on Facebook.
“We do advise that given the existing system instability, this will be a slow process as we work to restore power without causing another total system shutdown.”