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Barbados Prime Minister Demands Answers from Electricity Company after Two Days of Island-wide Power Cuts

Prime Minister Mia Mottley

Prime Minister Mia Mottley today described as “unacceptable and embarrassing”, island-wide power outages that have affected Barbados over the last two days, even as she sought to assure that critical operations in the country were functioning normally.

The island’s sole electricity provider, the Barbados Light & Power (BL&P), blamed the outages that have affected customers all across the country on contaminated fuel compounded by aging generator equipment.

The power cuts, which also triggered water outages, forced the early closure of schools and some businesses yesterday. Today, the Ministry of Education announced all public schools would be closed, as the situation persisted into a second day.

“With respect to the hospital, the airport, the seaport, the prison and all of the other critical institutions, I can inform the country that all of our power generation capacity is working and that we will ensure that we stick to normalcy as close as possible,” Mottley said earlier today.

“I have already asked the management of the Light & Power, to ensure as a matter of urgency, that the Chairman of BL&P, the Chairman of Emera [BL&P’s parent company] in Barbados Light & Power, be available to meet with me this evening, because this is an unacceptable situation,” she informed, adding that she could not understand how a country could have all of its generating capacity down at the same time.

“It is unacceptable and embarrassing, but in life we don’t get to choose the circumstances or the hand that we play. Sometimes we get the hand and we have, therefore, to rise to the occasion and do what is necessary….Rest assured that the Government is taking its own independent advice in these matters.”

At the same time, the Prime Minister urged Barbadians not to point fingers or complain.

“We have more than enough time to determine blame, to determine responsibility and to determine all of the other things that are going through people’s heads,” she said.

“Now is the time for Barbadians to be calm and to ensure that if you don’t need to be on the road, do not go on the road; to ensure that if you have family who may be living alone, that you check on them and make sure that they are well. The Ministry of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs has already been speaking to get that message across the country to ensure that any critical tasks that have to be done, that we go about them seamlessly, knowing full well that we are going to resolve this issue.”

Mottley assured that in the meantime, the country is safe.

“Rest assured that we are doing all that we can to make sure that while we wait for BL&P to resolve this issue, that we will do our part to make sure that Barbadians can continue to go as much as possible about their business, and where that it is not possible, that they remain safe and comfortable,” she said.

Speaking to members of the media via conference call yesterday, Managing Director of the BL&P Roger Blackman said the problem was mainly due to contamination in the imported fuel.

Without identifying the contaminant that was found in the fuel, Blackman further explained that of the samples tested from the last three shipments, two of them “tested positive for contaminants”.

He explained that there was still “quite a bit of fuel in the system now” that will be used up, adding that the shipment that is currently on island to be used is free of contamination.

“That will dilute what we currently have in the system. We have been managing this for the last couple weeks and what we will be doing is having our teams in place to do the repairs very quickly and get the units back on when they are affected. We do have things in place to address the issues when they come up,” said Blackman, who was unable to guarantee there would be no more blackouts as a result of contaminated fuel.

He said testing was now being conducted on fuel samples going back as far as August to see if this contaminant that has been detected would have been present at that time.

Blackman said the BL&P was working with the island’s fuel supplier, the Barbados National Oil Company Ltd (BNOCL), to put measures in place to resolve the issue over the short and medium-term.

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