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Feb 28, 2012

Belize City in darkness

Our newscast was delayed on Monday night for about two hours due to a power outage. We are able to get back on air at about eight-thirty after we had worked out the kinks on Coney Drive as well as Regent Street where our transmitters are located. But the residents in the old capital endured longer hours without electricity supply. The power outage started just before five on Monday evening and continued until minutes before eleven o’clock, also paralyzing businesses that do not have generators. The government controlled Belize Electricity Limited took six hours before engineers could determine the problem and restore supply. Early reports indicated that the outage was due to a fire at the Magazine Road substation which had damaged equipment and that supply would be restored by seven-thirty, then it was eight and then finally at eleven o’clock the lights came back on. A final release from the Belize Electricity Limited (B.E.L.) reports that the unplanned power outage was caused by faulty equipment at the Magazine Road Substation. The company says that the overheating of equipment within the substation required the interruption of the supply to the substation which feeds the entire City. The overheating was due to a faulty vacuum switch on the capacitor banks which helps to maintain the quality of voltage on the system. The vacuum switch and capacitor banks were subsequently isolated and power was restored at four minuets the eleven. B.E.L. did not wish to give any on camera interviews, so we don’t know if we can expect any further blackouts on Election Day or in the near future. On Monday night, our live Dickie Bradley Special was also delayed. Ironically, the former C.E.O. Lynn Young, was the featured guest on the blackout night. Young told Bradley what caused the extended blackout since there was no standby in place and that the work that had started for two feeders to supply the City before the nationalization was interrupted when the Public Utilities Commission accused B.E.L. of overspending.

Lynn Young

Lynn Young, BECOL

“What I understand is that there was a fault in what they call a grounding resistor which is sort of like; whenever there is a problem on the lines, it goes to ground and there is a current that goes through that and that causes the protection systems to chip in. obviously I don’t know the details, but it sounds like there might have been a fault. Well I am just guessing because when I walked out, I walked out. There is a problem and it sounds to me that there was a fault in the Belize City Substation and whatever protection was supposed to work probably didn’t work or maybe it got damaged and so the grounding resistor got damaged. That’s what I am hearing.”

Dickie Bradley

“What about plan B given that things like that will happen in an electrical plant?”

Lynn Young

“Exactly. That is one of the things that really irked me when I heard the government or the prime minister actually saying that when we were there, we spent monies on things that we didn’t need. But in an electrical system there are certain things that you have to have in case. You buy it hoping that you will never have to use it, but know that in the case you need it.”

Dickie Bradley

“But did they buy it?”

Lynn Young

“Yeah we bought a mobile—let me explain. You see, the transmission system is what you call a single line transmission system; there is no redundancy in it. And there is a substation in each city or town that steps down the voltage to the distribution voltage and then there’s the street transformers that steps it down for the house. But the weak point now is that these transformers, what we call the substations, there are more advance places that have the money would have redundant transformers—two transformers at each substation. But that is very expensive. So what we did at B.E.L. before I left, we bought a mobile substation—one that is on wheels with several different voltages—that you could take to a substation if something like this happens. So it is something that you buy and John Avery was on the air criticizing us like how you spend all this money on equipment that we don’t use, but when we needed it in Belmopan it saved us from a similar situation in Belmopan. But Belize City is big. The substation is bigger that the mobile substation. The mobile substation cannot work in Belize City. The trouble is that these transformers, these substation equipments have long lead times. When you order them, you have to order them specifically for the particular situation. So a lot of them have to be built. For example if the transformer in the Belize City substation were to get damaged, it would take six to seven months to get it replaced.  So one of the things we were doing in 2008, we had plans to build two redundant feeders to feed the City-one coming down the northern road and one down the western road.”

Dickie Bradley

“Isn’t the mile 8 station some kind of something to help us when we run into them problem?”

Lynn Young

“You see the mile 8 station feeds one line that comes to the substation here in Belize City and we were bringing out two other lines. You would see some pools up by the Haulover—again Mister Avery said we were sticking up polls in the middle of nowhere, but those polls were supposed to be to provide the backup power to the city should in case things like this happen. It is not the fault of the people at B.E.L. okay. This is clearly and the PUC, because I think and I will say it publicly right, they worked with the government to bring B.E.L. down and that’s what they did. You can’t destroy the country to save the country.”

According to another report, the gas turbine is also down and is in need of maintenance work.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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5 Responses for “Belize City in darkness”

  1. Maria Marshall says:

    I just hope that shops do not sell frozen meats which has ” gone off “during that long interlude of electrical blackout. The result of this could give people food poisoning and sincerely hope that the government holds responsibelity.
    M.M.

  2. bmp-resident says:

    What is the big fuss? The capital city which holds the main office for central government have gone thru this so many times and we don’t make a big deal out of it. Just last week we had a similar situation.

  3. CEO says:

    All of what Lynn said is accurate. I do not know the man and never met him. If the system is not looped and there is only one wire then when the system goes down the power cannot be brought back up. If there was another wire the prower could have been looped from the other direction while the down system gets repaired. Seven months for the turn around time for a transformer to gbet to Belize is pretty quick.. In the developed world it takes about 4 months. Like he said they are not a one-size -fits all kinda equipment.

    You have people at the top making decisions about things they really have no knowledga about and here lies the problem with every level of management in the public sector in Belize. By the way do not blame this government. This is the way business every government in Belize has done business and I hope as our population becomes more informed better leaders will emerge.

  4. duh says:

    pass an amendment and be happy.
    when it happens again, deny it happened.
    watch black tvs, everything ok.
    food rot, keep eating, no problem, taste better.
    make illegal to complain, never happen again.

  5. Think-About-It says:

    As I keep saying, this is why governments have no business in business! There will be more of this nonsense because BEL’s current management, and they most likely have the best of intentions, will not DARE to contradict their political bosses and invest properly. The PUC and the PM says that BEL was in fact investing too much….imagine that, your utility company in a developing country investing TOO MUCH! Well if PUC had had its way for the last few years, then obviously things would have been ten times worse now. Thank goodness they were resisted to some extent, so we at least (I hope) have a little breathing room before the whole damn thing falls apart. By then PM will have been re-elected I guess, so it won’t matter to him. Poor Belize.

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