Ja blackouts could reoccur

KINGSTON, Jamaica – It could happen again.

That’s the word coming from officials at the Jamaica Public Service Company Limited regarding last week’s all-island blackout – the nation’s third in less than two years.

Harold Nembhard, vice-president of power generation at JPS, told journalists that, while the company is doing all it can to avoid the recurrence of the islandwide power outage, the company has not been able to implement all the proposals put forward by the Office of Utilities Regulation after the July 15, 2006, outage.

“We could probably give a definite (answer) and say there’s a low probability of that happening if we had completed this programme of work that we are doing,” said Mr. Nembhard. “Until we have completed all of those, we do have risks, as with all power systems,” he said during a press conference held at JPS’s headquarters in New Kingston.

The light and power company said Wednesday’s shutdown was initiated by the collapse of a utility pole on the 138KV transmission line, which connects the Duhaney Park, St. Andrew, substation to the Tredegar Park station in St. Catherine. This led to the collapse of a circuit breaker, which further led to the shutdown of the Old Harbour Power Station in St. Catherine.

According to Damian Obiglio, president and CEO of JPS, the company will be moving to replace all the breakers and relays on its power delivery system within the next year.

They will also seek to appoint a permanent senior engineer to oversee the transmission and substation operations of JPS – a recommendation that was issued by the OUR over a year ago.

Clive Mullings, Minister of Energy, Mining and Telecommunications, said that, based on his investigations, the power outage could have been avoided if the company exercised proper maintenance procedures for its systems.

“The ministry’s investigation revealed that the collapsed structure was a rotting pole between the Tredegar and Duhaney substations,” said Mr. Mullings. “This is an indication of ineffective basic maintenance practices by the company, as identified by the ministry’s technical team.”

JPS officials admitted that several of its wooden poles, which are inspected every three to four years, were more than 30 years old.

The Energy Minister has, therefore, given the JPS 90 days to submit a detailed report to the OUR, outlining the state of its transmission network.