Belco will need to make robust changes after outage, says RA
Belco will likely be told to put in place “robust changes” to how it ensures a reliable energy supply in the wake of Friday’s island-wide power outage, the independent energy regulator said yesterday.
Belco said it had had traced the cause of the power outage to a fault within a voltage transformer in its power plant.
Safety systems at the plant kicked in during the incident at 3.20pm, cutting electricity supply across Bermuda for up to six hours and shutting the island down.
The Regulatory Authority of Bermuda, which oversees the island’s electricity supply, yesterday called for “robust changes” at the power company based on its investigation into the blackout.
Abayomi Carmichael, the chief executive of the Regulatory Authority, said the group was “working with Belco to reduce the likelihood of future events”.
“Risk to life and limb are the primary concern with such incidents and the RA is pleased to note there was no reported harm to anyone.
“We can confirm that Belco notified the RA, as legislation requires, to keep us abreast of developments throughout their restoration process.
“This included efforts to restore power to critical infrastructure, such as the hospital and Hamilton, plus updates until the last main circuit was restored.”
He said the authority would independently review Belco’s outrage report – and had requested weekly updates.
“Based on our investigative experience, we expect improvements that the report yields will be applicable to all equipment similar to that which failed, not just the specific assets in this case.
“We encourage patience as Belco remains in the early stages of their investigation, which is a process that can take diligent professionals weeks to properly conclude.”
He added: “With our independent expertise taking steps to ensure the utility addresses the sudden and unexpected loss of electricity appropriately, the public can expect a suitably tailored, independent update from the RA in the coming months.
“The RA’s engineering staff have extensive experience investigating serious power plant incidents and are seeking robust changes based on what this investigation reveals.”
Earlier yesterday, Belco said in a statement that its voltage transformer, associated with one of the power company’s baseload engines, failed at 3.20pm and activated protection systems that shut down the engine.
The other engines as well as the battery system attempted to compensate – but the system became unstable, and the remaining generators shut down as more protection systems came online.
Belco said the engine linked to the damaged transformer was back in service, but the transformer had been taken out and replaced – and would be sent overseas for analysis.
Belco had confirmed on Friday that a component which had faulted had experienced heat and smoke during the incident.
Belco president Wayne Caines said: "We thank the public for its patience through the events of Friday.
“On days like Friday, we saw the resiliency and co-operation of Bermudians all across the island as we worked to restore our electricity. This co-operation extends to government officials and even our emergency response teams.
“We are also proud of the Belco team who worked well into the night to restore power to our customers. A restoration effort like the one required for a system like ours is a challenging exercise of balancing supply and demand and our teams answered the challenge."
Police said the blackout did not lead to “major incidents”. Only minor traffic accidents occurred during the blackout.
Additional police officers were deployed during the emergency.
The BPS said high visibility patrols were sent out to “deter antisocial behaviour and reduce the risk of criminal activity as a result of the outage” particularly during the hours of darkness.
Michael Weeks, the national security minister, said on Friday that the community had “many questions“ about the incident, adding there would be ”a full and thorough accounting“ in the coming days.
Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, Na’imah Astwood, thanked the community over the weekend.
She said: “There were no calls for service in relation to any major incidents requiring police attention during or, as a result of yesterday’s power outage.
“Some members of the public, like the young man employed at the Esso City Tigermart and others, assisted with traffic control until the arrival of an officer.
“There were a few minor damage only, traffic collisions reported.”
Mr Weeks praised Belco workers, the emergency services and members of the public for their efforts during the blackout.
The minister said key members of the Emergency Measures Organisation, including the Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Team, were at Belco's headquarters to give support.
Mr Weeks said Government services that shut down on Friday were back online.
He thanked the Bermuda public for their patience and co-operation.
“I've heard heartening accounts of members of our community coming together to check on the vulnerable and stepping in to help neighbours in need. So thank you to all.”
Scott Pearman, One Bermuda Alliance shadow home affairs minister, yesterday called for Belco to release information quickly as he pointed to the fact this was the second such incident in 26 months.
Mr Pearman insisted the energy company needed to say if similar blackouts were anticipated.
He told The Royal Gazette: “The Opposition understands that Belco has attributed the island-wide power outage yesterday to an equipment fault.
“We note this is the second time in three years that a significant outage has occurred.
“Belco has assured the public that a root cause analysis is under way and that they will update us.
“While many residents were undoubtedly relieved that the vast majority of the island had restored power in less than four hours, we very much hope Belco will share information swiftly and with transparency, including whether further outages may be anticipated.
“The OBA would also like to commend the patience exhibited by members of the public in frustrating circumstances.
“Thank you also to the police service, who greatly assisted workers to travel home safely with no functioning traffic lights. The police mobilised remarkably quickly, which was appreciated.”
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