A day after admitting that it is running on ageing generators, half of which should have been replaced, the Barbados Light and Power Company today ordered up to $4 million in extra power-making capacity in a bid to limit future island wide blackouts, managing director Roger Blackman has revealed.
But the power company executive promised the cost of additional energy would not be passed on to consumers, already paying the highest electricity prices in the region, at 52 cents (26 US cents) per kilowatt-hour. Only Jamaica, at 29 US cents per kilowatt-hour is dearer.
Blackman told reporters this evening that Light and Power is to spend the sum on rented generators to shore up its reserves in an attempt to avoid a repeat of Monday and Tuesday’s power outages.
Giving an update on the 108-year-old electric utility’s short-term fixes, Blackman said the rentals would provide an additional 12 megawatts and are scheduled to be on the island by early December.
During the meeting with Prime Minister Mia Mottley at Ilaro Court this evening along with Scott Balfour, the president and chief executive officer of BL&P’s Canadian parent Emera Inc, the managing director gave an assurance that the costs of the rentals would not be passed onto customers.
Blackman said: “One of the items we would have worked on today was in relation to immediate relief, 12 megawatts of rental generation to be delivered to the island by December 5 and we have agreed to cover those costs of rental as well as installation to get that done as quickly as we possibly can.”
“We are also evaluating additional rental options. We have had some proposals in today and those are currently being evaluated, which could be installed in a short time frame as well.
“The purpose of the rentals is to have that additional capacity and security and insurance on the ground as quickly as possible, so that has been started and the order would have been placed at 4.12 pm.”
Blackman said the BL&P’s long-term solution was still a 33-megawatt, $100 million energy bridge project which is to be installed at Trents, St Lucy.
He pointed out that while that project was initially expected to be completed in a year’s time, that timeline had been fast-tracked and it was now due to be finished by June.
The Light & Power chief said: “Apart from the rental generation, our more long-term solution would be the energy bridge.
“We had initially been talking to the supplier about delivery in a 12-month time frame, but we are working to get that time frame down as short as possible and right now we are looking at the middle of 2020, so around June, and the rental generation will serve as insurance backup during the period it requires to get that permanent solution in place.”
He said BL&P would also be bringing in additional crews as it continues to work around-the-clock to keep the nation’s lights on.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that she had also reached out to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to do an independent assessment of the electricity monopoly’s operations.
She said an IDB team is to begin its work from tomorrow.
Mottley said the contaminated fuel which the BL&P believes was responsible for the power outage has been cleaned.
“As to whether the source of the problem is the fuel or old equipment or other things we don’t know for certain, but as I said to you yesterday, our objective is to be able to ensure the integrity of the system going forward,” she said.