(Eleuthera, Bahamas) – According to Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) Manager, Eleuthera Operations, Mr. Robert Hall, Monday night’s extensive power outage, which affected most of Eleuthera and Harbour Island for approximately 13 hours, beginning shortly after 8pm on the evening of July 25th, originated with challenges at the Hatchet Bay Power Plant with downed generators. He said that BPL personnel moved quickly to repair, but were hit with yet another challenge unrelated to the generation issue, at about 1am, when a major switch gear failed, at the same plant. “For us it was a series of events, and unfortunately when you add them up, it was much longer. So for that reason we had two thirds of the customers on Eleuthera who were affected. We dispatched our teams as quickly as we could to address it, and they worked throughout the night to correct the problem.”
On Tuesday morning, July 26th, said Mr. Hall, they began the process of restoring power, which had to be done slowly in stages to avoid long term effects. He did warn, however, that customers would experience brief outages, as they worked to fully complete repairs. “This was one of those failures that happen that we could not avoid, and unfortunately it happened in the midst of other challenges… but, the work is ongoing.”
Monday night’s outage came on the same day that the island experienced a very similar problem, during the mid-morning, which had been attributed to an engine failure at the Rock Sound Power Plant. These multiple outages came on the heels of a planned visit to The Eleutheras by new CEO of BPL, Pam Hill (who joined BPL in early May of 2016), on Tuesday, July 26th, 2016. She was accompanied on island by Mr. Mark Hudson, Assistant General Manager responsible for Family Islands; Arnette Ingraham, Corporate Communications Manager; Marissa Smith, Assistant General Manager Human Resources; Robert Hall, Manager Eleuthera Operations; and Paul Maynard, President of the Bahamas Electrical Workers Union.
Her itinerary on Tuesday took her from one end of the island to the other, beginning in Tarpum Bay at 10am for a General Staff Meeting, and later to Harbour Island where she met with a group of local hoteliers and business people on the island, to hear their concerns, and to discuss a way forward with electricity supply challenges there. “This will be a chance for me to really get to know, in a more personal and less removed way, and to get a fuller picture,’ said Ms. Hill in an interview on Tuesday afternoon. She explained that she would discuss where BEC has been as a company and the transition to BPL.
CEO Hill, shared that, as it was in New Providence with the challenges there, BPL would take a phased improvement plan approach to dealing with the issues in Harbour Island, and Eleuthera, saying, “We know there will be things that we won’t be able to do in a very material way in the short term.” Early focus in the Eleutheras, she explained would deal first with strengthening the transmission and distribution of power to customers, then spending time on the engines and getting to the root challenges with those, and implementing additional generation to improve reliability. A long term priority, she mentioned would be an introduction of an alternative solar ‘backbone’ to the current system in the neighbourhood of up to 3 to 5 Megawatts – estimating that this would take place during the second quarter of 2017.
Arnette Ingraham, Corporate Communication Manager with BPL, in a statement, following the meeting in Harbour Island, described it as a positive discussion, saying, “BPL CEO Pamela Hill used it as her opportunity to carefully listen to the concerns of some members of the business community on the island. They were quite honest in highlighting their frustration with what seemed like inaction by BPL to come up with a permanent solution to the power related challenges on the island. Ms. Hill didn’t share with the group any long term solutions or any details of BPL’s plan for the island. What she promised was to begin looking at how the company could resolve Harbour Island’s power problems in the immediate future. She promised a solution before the end of the year.” The meeting was said to have ended with Ms. Hill promising a follow up meeting with the wider community very soon.