Prime Minister receives report on massive February blackout

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley - SUREASH CHOLAI
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley - SUREASH CHOLAI

The Prime Minister has received the report of the investigation of the islandwide power outage on February 16.

Dr Rowley was handed the report on Tuesday by the committee of experts at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann's.

During the blackout Trinidad lost electrical power for over ten hours, while Tobago was unaffected.

The Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission's (T&TEC’s) general manager Kelvin Ramsook initially said a fault developed in one of the major circuits which triggered independent stations to shut down, causing the blackout, and promised there would be no repeat.

In Parliament on February 18, then acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert said an independent expert committee would investigate the cause and the response . The three committee members are Chandrabhan Sharma, Keith Sirju and Allister Guevarro.

At the same parliamentary sitting, Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales suggested people would not be compensated for loss of electricity during the blackout. He said, “I need to make it abundantly clear that this standard is subject to two exceptions – force majeure events and other events that are outside of T&TEC’s control."

A force majeure (superior force) event is extraordinary and beyond reasonable control, such as a war, riot, crime, an epidemic or sudden legal change.

“There was a huge issue emanating from the independent producers which impacted upon T&TEC’s ability to provide a supply of electricity to the country.”

On the cause of the blackout, Gonzales said, “A short-circuit fault occurred on a 12,000-volt overhead line. The line crosses under the two 220,000-volt transmission overhead lines which connect the T&TEC system to the Trinidad Generation Unlimited (TGU) power station in La Brea.”

Protective systems reportedly took the circuits out of service as designed, disconnecting the TGU station from the TTEC system. The short circuit caused three other independent power producers to trip, which resulted in the islandwide power outage.

At a press conference on April 1, president of the Oilfields Workers' Trade Union (OWTU) Ancel Roget said the cause was a fallen tree.

“A tree fell on the T&TEC lines and those lines would have wobbled in the electrical fields of one and other and just tripped the entire system off.”

He blamed corruption and mismanagement within T&TEC for the fallen tree, as contractors are responsible for clearing the lines.

He said the commission is understaffed by 300 linesmen, leaving the work to be done by contracted workers, at an additional cost to the commission.

In a statement on April 4, MP for Princes Town Barry Padarath said, “Over seven weeks have elapsed since the committee headed by Prof Sharma was established, and the government is yet to advise the public on the status of the report.”


"Prime Minister receives report on massive February blackout"

More in this section