CUC calls in experts over BT power cuts

| 08/07/2016 | 14 Comments
Cayman News Service

Caribbean Utilities Company

(CNS): Grand Cayman’s power providers has called in experts in order to help address technical problems with its Bodden Town circuit. CUC told CNS that the BT15 circuit that feeds the Northward and Lower Valley areas has sustained seven full circuit outages this year and five of them were in June and one in July. CNS Readers have expressed their concern over the frequency and duration of the outages and have questioned whether they face another month of electricity supply problems after another cut over the holiday weekend.

Apologizing to customers in the area, a spokesperson for CUC said that outages were all due to under-frequency after a trip of one of the new units due to a communications error on the control system of the engine.

“Our partners MAN have been troubleshooting on site and have called in additional expertise with two specialists arriving on island earlier this week to resolve this issue,” a statement from the firm read. “CUC will be rotating the BT15 circuit off the under-frequency list and until the issue is resolved will run the two new units at lower loads to reduce need for backup capacity should they trip.”

The power provider revealed that in addition to a 14-minute outage in the area in April, there was a ten minute outage at 11:40 pm on 6 June, a 19 minute cut on 10 June at around 6:20pm, and a 16 minute outage just after midnight on 12 June, with another ten minute outage in the morning of 19 June. But on 29 June the power was cut for over 50 minutes in the early morning hours, followed by another 22 minute outage on 3 July at lunchtime.

One CNS reader expressed the frustration suffered by herself, her family and neighbours and implied that the power cuts were more frequent and longer than acknowledged by CUC, claiming that the outages had been at least three times a week lasting between 15 minutes and two hours at a time.

Pointing out that the power outages go beyond the inconvenience of not having lights or A/C and fans during the hot weather, she told CNS that she also relies on a pump for her well, leaving her without water during the cuts as well.

She also said she had security concerns as one of the cuts happened while her electronically controlled garage door was up, leaving her standing guard until the power came back on to close it again. Another morning outage prevented her from getting the car out when she needed to go to work.

The worried reader also said the cuts were much more serious for some of her friends, family and neighbours, as she pointed to an elderly relative with a heart condition who needs to have oxygen at night, so the loss of power is medically dangerous.

“I’m sure she’s not the only one in that sort of situation,” she said. “CUC needs to get this fixed,” the frustrated reader told us.

She has also complained to the ERA but has had no response about her complaint.

Bodden Town was not the only district to suffer frequent outages last month, as there have been cuts in other districts. Richard Hew, the president of CUC, said that there had been several outages as the firm’s new generator was fired up and commissioned into action, but he said the firm had identified the teething problems and customers could now look forward to far fewer cuts.

Despite those reassurances, however, as temperatures are particularly hot at present, CUC residential customers in particular appear to still be facing random power outages causing significant inconvenience.

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Comments (14)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Remember that CUC were sold to Fortis several years ago. This is the same Fortis that destroyed the infrastructure in Belize in their quest for more cash and control. (See below.)

    What has happened here is not surprising. CUC have just installed 2 new generators and I highly doubt if the control systems in these new machines are compatible with the tried and true systems that CUC have been using since 1999. Change is inevitable, but it should never be at the expense of something that works.

    If you remember, at the turn of the century, CUC built a new control room and installed their integrated control system. This was a huge leap as CUC went from a third world power producer to a world-class operation.

    No expense was spared. They put in a fantastic system with excellent engineers overseeing the project. It was a very exciting time in the company.

    Now CUC have senior management that are not focussed on what they do. Most senior management have their own businesses, have very little hands-on knowledge of the systems that they spend millions of dollars on and then they place unreasonable demands on the few employees that still have some old-school skills.

    In a nutshell, CUC is a company in serious decline because of poor corporate governance, unskilled leadership and a desperate need to satisfy the money markets.

    It is impossible to have such an unhealthy focus on the bottom line without a knock-on effect on safety and reliability. We may have a disaster about to happen at CUC and if Fortis don’t get off their lazy backsides, Cayman will become just another victim.

    I was present at many meetings when Stanley Marshall and the Fortis guys came down to complete their purchase. Mr. Marshall has recently retired, but I would say that he cannot possibly be happy with the freefall in the perception of their prized asset that was once the proud and strong CUC, a jewel in the crown of their portfolio.

    If the problems continue, CUC will go from a buy to a sell in a heartbeat and that will upset a lot of investors.

    Here is how Fortis decided to deal with Belize after the people of Belize realized what a disaster had befallen them as a result of getting into bed with Fortis.
    And here

    If this Richard Hew is indeed the leader of his company and not some strategically-installed puppet, he needs to stand up to these Fortis folk and demand better support for CUC and the people of the Cayman Islands.

  2. Anonymous says:

    There was a 4 hour power cut on some streets in Savannah Meadows on Friday evening into Friday night. 4 hours to replace a transformer. As for the streetlight around the corner which has been broken for more than a year (and has been reported) ….. smh

  3. Knot S Smart says:

    And here I was remembering that whenever there are frequent electrical disruptions – the electric rates increases shortly thereafter…

  4. ERA says:

    Question: Did CNS check with the ERA prior to quoting: “She has also complained to the ERA but has had no response about her complaint.”

    Answer: No

    Dear CUC Customers,

    The ERA is fully aware of the situation and believes that CUC has taken reasonable steps to both resolve and mitigate the problem. According to the technical specialists, the issue has been fully resolved. The ERA will however continue to monitor the situation.

    It is in CUC’s best interest to keep your power on so it can sell electricity which ultimately keeps costs and electricity rates as low as can be reasonably achieved. CUC is a regulated entity subject to performance standards and if it does not meet its reliability targets, it would be subject to penalties, which again is not in its best interest.


  5. Annie says:

    Garage door fixes or not, unreliable power supply is unacceptable, especially given the high prices customers pay.

  6. Harvey says:

    It is easy for Mr. Hew to say they will be infrequent, I bet he doesn’t live in BT. He probably lives in one of those new Dart built high rise condo’s that never lose power. To the people of BT, “just stay flexible.

  7. Soldier Crab says:


  8. anonymous says:

    I thought all garage doors can be closed manually. First you must locate the Bypass switch. It is an emergency release cord on the garage door arm that opens the trolley to allow you to disengage the garage door from the opener. Locate a cord hanging from a bracket on the chain.

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