Unauthorized Settings Led To St. Kitts Blackout

Cabinet Meeting Officers Investigate Power Outages

Cabinet Meeting Officers Investigate Power Outages
Photo By Erasmus Williams

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
November 17, 2008 (CUOPM)

Two employees of the St. Kitts Electricity Services have been sent on leave after unauthorized system settings led to power outages on Friday and Saturday, hours after Minister of Public Works and Utilities, Dr. the Hon. Earl Asim Martin assured the general public of efforts to stabilise electricity generation and transmission to consumers.

The Cabinet, which convened a Special Session Monday to review this very disturbing development, said that the team of engineers was able to indicate precisely what resulted in the loss of electrical power in various sections of the island.

General Manager of the Electricity Department, Mr. John Channer in his report to the Cabinet, cited negligence on the part of staff members responsible for system protection matters at the power station as a reason for the outages.

“What was very concerning to the team of engineers was that system settings had been changed, adjusting what is called the “˜earth fault setting,’ without the guidance of the supervising engineers. In instances, it was not clear who made the setting changes. These changes in settings precipitated the development of electrical faults which led to the tripping of the generators,” said Minister of State for Infromation, Sen. the Hon. Nigel Carty in a Cabinet Statement issued late Monday afternoon.

The Cabinet statement said that as a result of the recent outages and other past incidents, disciplinary action was taken in respect of two power station officers (including one supervisor) who have been sent on leave by management.

The Cabinet disclosed that over the weekend, new procedures were developed to control access to the system’s control panels.

“All access to the control panels would be signed off by the top supervising engineer who will then verify that the work authorised was properly carried out,” said Minister Carty.

He said that on Monday November 17, all relay settings were checked to ensure that their settings were correct.

Security is also to be immediately increased at outlying sub-stations and the schedule for the upgrade of the power plant protection system has been adjusted to take into account the serious nature of the current electrical outages and their inconvenience to consumers.

The Team from the Department of Electricity which reported to Cabinet was headed by the General Manager, Mr. John Channer, and included Superintendent of Generation, Mr. Kevin Bennett; Superintendent of Transmission and Distribution, Mr. Bertil Browne;  Operations Engineer (Generation), Mr. Clement Jomo Williams; Protection Engineer, Transmission and Distribution Division, Mr. Nubian Greaux; Power Station Mechanical Engineer, Mr. Bhisma Jetoo and Maintenance Engineer in the Transmission and Distribution Division, Mr. Rhondel Phillip.

During the Press Conference last Thursday, Minister responsible for Public Utilities, Dr. the Hon. Earl Asim Martin assured consumers that the power generation plant had enough available capacity to meet consumer demand.

Power Station officials also maintain that the power plant has more than enough generating capacity, and that electrical faults are the sole reason for the outages.

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