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posted 11 Apr 2013, 04:54 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 11 Apr 2013, 04:54 ]

8 April, 2013
A Guardian newspaper report on Wednesday April 3, 2013 stated that the Minister of Energy in his contribution to the Senate debate on April 2 indicated that “an employee at the Cove Power Plant in Tobago is being investigated for an “operator error” in relation to the nationwide blackout across T&T on Good Friday.” As a matter of fact the headline read “Human error caused Tobago blackout: Operator under probe”. The report went on further to state that Ramnarine said “after preliminary investigations it was determined that an “operator error” was responsible for the power outage.”

Firstly the OWTU rejects out of hand and also condemns the attempt by the Minister of Energy to convey the belief and or give the impression that an ordinary worker was responsible for the black out in Tobago. He conveniently side step the fundamental reason which led to the blackout which was simply the worse management decision with disastrous consequences. This is not an operator's error as he had erroneously conveyed to the nation under parliamentary privilege.

We are compelled to state categorically that the incontrovertible facts are at total variance to the Minister's statement. The following are the events that led to the island wide blackout in Tobago:-

At 12.37 am on Friday March 29, 2013 there was a serious drop in gas pressure from the Phoenix Park gas processing plant which supplies gas to the power generation plants in Trinidad. This resulted in the tripping of generating plants in Trinidad leading to an island wide blackout. In spite of the loss of power supply from Trinidad via the submarine cable, the Cove Power Plant in Tobago continued to operate until 1.30 am.

This occurred because Tobago power requirements were automatically picked up by three of the four 16 mega watt machines at the Cove Power Plant. The Power Plant went into ‘island mode’ which means that with no power coming from Trinidad, the Cove Power Plant now had to supply all of Tobago’s power needs. There are automatic settings for these generators when the Plant is operating in island mode. The Cove operators are fully aware of these settings. These setting are designed to allow the machines to follow any power fluctuations and keep running.

However, the operations at the Cove Power Station were taken over by a particular Area Manager. He went to the plant and gave instructions to a junior manager to place the machines on fixed mode. This had disastrous consequences. This mal operation was done by the management and not by the operators. The operators were not involved in this exercise.

The OWTU views the Minister of Energy’s misinformed statement as malicious, unfortunate and disturbing. It was designed to protect his friends in senior management at T&TEC while pointing fingers at the workers. We will not facilitate the Minister in collaboration with T&TEC’s management creating scapegoats while failing to identify the true events of Good Friday morning. Additionally, the Union is putting on record its concern over the more broad issue of the country’s energy security in the context of a possible gas shortage.

The OWTU calls on the Minister of Energy to immediately retract these malicious statements and apologies to the T&TEC workers. Further, we renew our call for an independent enquiry into all of the events that led to the Good Friday blackout both in Trinidad and Tobago. Himself cannot investigate himself honestly and objectively. The real reasons for the blackout must be identified and communicated to the people of Trinidad and Tobago.