BPL outage ‘once in a blue moon event’

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.

Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister.


Tribune Business Editor


Bahamas Power & Light’s (BPL) island-wide blackout was caused by a “once in a blue moon” event, a Cabinet minister said yesterday, adding that he was “more comfortable than I’ve ever been” about summer reliability.

Desmond Bannister, minister of works, told Tribune Business that the outage that hit the whole of New Providence in early afternoon was caused by a system short that occurred at BPL’s Skyline location as it moved to tie a new substation at Gladstone and Fire Trail Road into its grid.

Reassuring Bahamian businesses and consumers that the incident does not foreshadow a repeat of the blackout/load shedding marred summer 2019, Mr Bannister said any concerns for the upcoming peak demand period related more to BPL’s transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure than its generation capabilities given the addition of the seven Wartsila and one General Electric (GE) engines.

The minister added that he was “praying” BPL can still exploit still-low global oil prices to bring some relief to customers hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and Brent Crude indices were trading above $25 per barrel as Tribune Business went to press last night, but Mr Bannister said the Minnis Cabinet has authorised BPL and the Ministry of Finance to discuss how much financial support the latter can give.

Speaking to yesterday’s island-wide outage, Mr Bannister said: “What happened is that BPL has a new substation with respect to their summer readiness initiative at Gladstone and Fire Trail Roads. They were transferring from the old sub-station [Skyline] to the new one.

“In the process, they had a challenge. Somebody did something they shouldn’t have done. That caused some kind of flash back in the system that took the whole system out..... It wasn’t a generation issue. It was an unfortunate incident, and I was more concerned about the safety of the people involved because someone could have been killed. Someone may have had a mental shock.”

BPL, in its official statement, said the incident happened as it tried to “isolate the circuit” at the Skyline substation that feeds the old Gladstone Road facility before tying in the new one. A “short” occurred in BPL’s systems as it attempted to do this, plunging New Providence into a blackout lasting at least several hours.

“It was unexpected. It’s the kind of thing that happens when we’re dealing with the challenges we face,” Mr Bannister told Tribune Business. “I don’t expect to see this type of thing in the summer time. It’s the type of thing that happens once in a blue moon.

“The only concern we have with the summer is transmission and distribution issues. We feel more comfortable going into the summer than we’ve ever been.” While BPL’s generation woes may have been sold by last year’s near-$130m investment, its aged T&D infrastructure remains vulnerable as $225m in financing that was anticipated to be raised through its rate reduction bond issue that has yet to be placed.

Describing BPL’s revenue and financial position as “entirely unsatisfactory”, Mr Bannister said the utility had been given the go-ahead to enter talks with the Ministry of Finance to see how much financial assistance the latter can provide to enable it to exploit global oil prices via its oil purchases.

“Cabinet has given them and the Ministry of Finance authorisation to discuss their challenges,” he added, “and we anticipate they’re going to be able to make some accommodation. It’s going to be a matter of Finance and BPL getting together and putting figures together, and determining how much support they will get from the Government, but the policy decision to assist by Cabinet has been made.

“I’m just praying we are fully able to take advantage of the situation before oil prices rise. It would be a wonderful advantage for all of us, and make you and me a lot happier when we get our bills. It will make a huge difference when we look at what we’re buying fuel at now. If BPL can tap into this market now that is going to be a win for us all.”


ohdrap4 4 years, 2 months ago

Once in a blue moon Twice in a full moon Thrice in a crescent moon Every day in a waning moon

sweptaway 4 years, 2 months ago

Are there blue moons weekly now?

thps 4 years, 2 months ago

I was worried but after these statements I'm now comforted.

"Notwithstanding the fact that we had to load shed…if you check the record, this summer has still been better than any of the five summers under the former administration, any of them,” Bannister said."

This came days after BPL chairman Donovan Moxey told the Nassau Guardian the company did not anticipate any load shedding this summer. “We don’t expect any load shedding,” Mr Moxey said last week.

Both quotes came in 2019. Both quotes before the worst summer in BPL history.

Maybe we have no more problems, maybe we have tremendous problems. If I were them, I'd just stick to not making promises and tell persons to not listen to promises, otherwise, I have a bridge to sell on Spanish Wells.

ohdrap4 4 years, 2 months ago

Hurry they need to buy a bridge there!!!

Clamshell 4 years, 2 months ago

Translation: Buy candles. Lotsa candles.

Godson 4 years, 2 months ago

And they say we good Bahamian Christians shouldn't cuss..... Well Mudda Stuck! Once in a blue moon???

Mr. Bannister must be eating donkey meat from Inagua.

Bonefishpete 4 years, 2 months ago

If a season has four full moons, then the third full moon may be called a Blue Moon, according to the old Maine Farmer's Almanac. There was a Blue Moon by this definition on November 21, 2010, another on August 20-21, 2013, another on May 21, 2016, and another on May 18, 2019. The next will be on August 22, 2021.

There's been four Blue Moons since 2010. Don't sound so bad.

DDK 4 years, 2 months ago

Little Birdie tell me dey tief da Abaco manager to Nassau. Prior to Dorian, Abaco service had actually improved monumentally..... Would be wonderful if Nassau ever sees a regular improvement but for that to happen Government needs to get out of it. They are just too entrenched with political corruption to allow any semblance of a functional utility service.

totherisingsun 4 years, 2 months ago

"The only concern is Transmission and Distribution issues".

If you put a new engine in an old jalopy what do you get?... an old jalopy with a new engine. Lots of power connected to an old transmission gearbox.

Say did that cooling system radiator arrive for the new engine cuz ya know it does get hot in summer?

Porcupine 4 years, 2 months ago

“In the process, they had a challenge. Somebody did something they shouldn’t have done. That caused some kind of flash back in the system that took the whole system out..... It wasn’t a generation issue. It was an unfortunate incident, and I was more concerned about the safety of the people involved because someone could have been killed. Someone may have had a mental shock.”

Why does every time a Bahamian politician opens their mouth, it makes the entire Bahamian population look stupid? Just asking. Without knowing who made the above statement, would you think this person is over the age of 5?

Is it something in the water we should all be avoiding?

ThisIsOurs 4 years, 2 months ago

I get mental shocks all the time

The_Oracle 4 years, 2 months ago

A "Mental Shock" sounds like it could be beneficial as therapy for stupidity. Flash back? Was the Generator remembering the last blackout and had an emotional break down? Anyway, glad no one was hurt, but it is the kind of thing that happens when your equipment is not maintained, is overloaded and patched together like grannies quilt.

ThisIsOurs 4 years, 2 months ago

I had a mental shock around this same time in 2017...in a blue moon too. double whammy

proudloudandfnm 4 years, 2 months ago

Nassau has a lot of blue moons now... muddos….

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