Ja in dark again

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Like a case of déjà vu, the island, for the third time in less than two years, was again plunged into darkness for several hours last night.

The last island-wide power outage occurred on July 4, 2007, nearly a year to the day the country was affected by a previous island-wide power outage, on July 15, 2006.

Reports from Jamaica Public Service Company Ltd., the island’s sole power provider, are that preliminary indications suggest the source of last night’s outage was at the Tredegar substation in St. Catherine.

“Just after 6pm (Wednesday), the company experienced a system failure and this resulted in an all-island power outage,” said Winsome Callum, head of communications at the JPS, reports the Jamaica Gleaner.

“Details of what caused the system failure are not yet available,” she said.

However, according to Ms. Callum, up to 9:15 last night, the company was able to restore power to 50 per cent customers and full restoration was expected by midnight.

“Restoration has started with communities closest to our power generation centres in Montego Bay and Kingston,” she said.

Clive Mullings, Minister of Energy, Mining and Telecommunications, last night told The Gleaner that he has called a meeting with the JPS and Office of Utilities Regulation for 9:00 a.m. today at his office in New Kingston.

“We are very concerned that another outage has occurred so soon after the last power outage last July,” said Mr. Mullings.

“The aim is to determine what happened and why, as this is totally unacceptable.”

The Energy Minister said he would be seeking to establish whether the recommendations put forward by the overseas consultants to the JPS last year were complied with and, if not, why not.

David Geddes, director of consumer and public affairs at the OUR, last night told The Gleaner that the JPS has been ordered to provide the regulatory body with a detailed report early today.

“At this time, that is all the information we are able to give,” said Mr. Geddes.

This is also the third report, in less than two years, to be submitted to the OUR by the JPS after the occurrence of an all island blackout.

On July 4 last year, the entire island was plunged into darkness, from minutes after 3:00 p.m. until about 12:15 a.m. the next morning. The company later said the blackout was caused by a problem at its Old Harbour Power Station in St. Catherine.

The OUR said it was at present concluding its report on last year’s outage.

The outage of July 15, 2006 was blamed on a lighting strike to a steel tower at the Duncans/Bogue transmission link in Trelawny. JPS however did not face any sanctions, despite a probe into the matter that was ordered by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. A report on that outage, presented by a team of Canadian consultants, implied that the company was at fault for the all-island blackout.

The JPS said it would convene a press briefing today to update the public on its investigation.