Statement
15 May 2017 - 10:37am

STATEMENT BY MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND WORKS
HONOURABLE MARK VANTERPOOL
THURSDAY, MAY 11, 2017

UPDATE ON BVI ELECTRICITY CORPORATION’S PHASE V COMPLETION AND RENAMING OF THE POCKWOOD POND POWER STATION

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to report to this Honourable House today that the Government of the Virgin Islands has completed a major upgrade to the British Virgin Islands Electricity Corporation.

On Thursday May 4th, the BVIEC hosted an historic ceremony at its Pockwood Pond Power Station, to mark the end of the Phase V Power Development Programme and the renaming of the Pockwood Pond Power Station, to the Henry Wilfred “Freddie” Smith Power Station.

Madam Speaker, we have come through a period, in the last few years, of frequent power outages, mainly caused by equipment failure – old engines that were coming to the end of their life span or had come to the end of their life span in some cases and could no longer be properly maintained.

Coupled with that, the existing power plant did not have the capacity to supply enough power, when a generator had to be taken offline for repairs.

Then, there was also a situation created by an increasing demand for electricity in the Territory, with the coming on stream of the Oil Nut Bay Resort, the BiWater Plant in Paraquita Bay, Tortola Pier Park, the expansion of several businesses and new home construction.

These developments in the last 2-3 years, Madam Speaker, brought the Territory’s peak load of 34 megawatts, very close to the 39-megawatt load capacity.

Madam Speaker, the frequent power outages were a cause for concern for the Government and it was a frustrating time for all of us, residents and business owners, some of us suffering damage to equipment, down time and loss of revenue.

In all of this, Madam Speaker, it is important for us to remember from whence we came and recognize the great progress that we have made as a Territory, in the development of our electricity network in the Virgin Islands.

Back in 1950, some 67 years ago, electricity was generated by one 20KW generator, to 63 customers, for six hours a day. Between 1950 and 1970, a generating station was built and three 60KW units supplied 18 hours of electricity per day to 210 customers.

The Long Bush Power Station expanded to 3 medium speed 1.2MW generators and a 13.2KV bus system and by the end of the 1970’s, service had been extended to major areas in the British Virgin Islands.

In 1972, electricity was extended to Virgin Gorda and then later to Jost Van Dyke, using submarine links. A Power Station offering 24-hour service, was established on Anegada in the 1980’s.

On May 23rd, 1979, Madam Speaker, the Government’s Electricity Department was changed to the British Virgin Islands Electricity Corporation, a Statutory Body.

Between 1970 and 1990, the Corporation added an additional 12 generating sets and the total number of active consumers jumped from 1,829 in 1970, to 6,347 at the end of 1989.

In the very early days, Madam Speaker, Mr. Sydney Farara (attorney Gerry Farara's father) and his team, kept the plant going. We recognize this team for their dedication, using the resources they had at the time.

Later in 1987, after several General Managers from the U.K., we appointed our first local General Manager, none other than Honourable Ronnie W. Skelton, in an acting capacity and then in 1988 as our fulltime General Manager. He saw the Electricity Corporation's development through many phases and we want to publicly thank him for his arduous work.

Then in 2000, another local Engineer, Mr. Leroy Abraham, was appointed and has been at the helm ever since. In between there, Madam Speaker, we also had the services of Mr. Steve Turnbull for a short period. We want to thank them all for their good work.

Madam Speaker, there has been consistent growth in the demand for electricity in the Virgin Islands and many upgrades have been made, in tandem, to meet these demands.

In 1986, land was purchased and construction of the Pockwood Pond Power Station Phase I began in 1990, with two 3 MW generators.

Phase II development, in 1995, involved the installation of two 4.5 MW generators at the Pockwood Pond Power Station; Phase III in 1999 – installed three 6 MW Rolls Royce units; Phase IV A in 2005 replaced one Rolls Royce engine with a 5.5 MW unit and an additional unit was installed; while Phase IV B in 2006 replaced the remaining two Rolls Royce engines.

During Phases II and III, transmission systems were upgraded.

Madam Speaker, groundbreaking for the BVI Electricity Corporation’s Phase V Power Development Programme, was held on March 23rd, 2015.

Phase V included an expansion to the Pockwood Pond building, the installation of 3 new Wartsila generators with a total capacity of 24.4 MW and the installation of a twin 34.5 KV transmission cable upgrade that was placed between Pockwood Pond and Long Bush, along the route of the Paul P. Wattley Drive.

In the meantime, in December 2015, temporary plants, with 4.5 MW, were installed at the Long Bush Power Station, to help offset load shedding.

Madam Speaker, with the completion of Phase V, the Territory’s electrical power supply will have a capacity of 57.5 MW, which represents a 47 percent increase, after Units 1, 2 and 11 (with a sum capacity 5.5 MW) are retired.

Madam Speaker, the BVI’s electricity generation is 99% dependent on imported fossil fuels.

As Minister with responsibility for the subject, I have been leading a campaign, through this Government, to ensure that by the year 2023, the Territory would have replaced 30% of its National Electricity Supply with Renewable Energy.

The Renewable Energy Programme began in 2013 and so far, Madam Speaker, we have:

1.         In May 2015, passed the British Virgin Islands Electricity Corporation (Amendment) Act 2015, amending the 1979 Ordinance, to provide for the development and management of Renewable Energy. This means that private companies and individuals, with the approval of the Ministry of Communications and Works and the BVI Electricity Corporation, can produce energy through Renewable Energy sources, such as wind and solar;

2.         Developed an Energy Policy, which was approved by Cabinet and laid on the Table of the House of Assembly. This will guide the Territory’s Renewable Energy Strategy and Programme;

3.         Conducted, during 2014-2015, multiple pilot studies to learn more about solar street lights. 50 solar street lights were purchased, arrived in the Territory in July 2016 and have been installed in previously un-lit locations on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada. Prior to this, Madam Speaker, solar and LED lights were installed in Road Town;

4.         Commenced Renewable Energy Courses at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in Summer 2014; and

5.         Launched in October 2015, a Public Relations Campaign to engage all stakeholders and educate the public on Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy. As part of this campaign, we educated students in all public schools across the Territory during April and May 2016, on the importance of Renewable Energy, reducing, reusing and recycling.

So today, Madam Speaker, we can truly say that we have come a mighty long way. The completion of this BVI Electricity Corporation Phase V Power Development Programme - a $49-$50 million investment by the Government of the Virgin Islands – is quite a milestone.

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the BVI Social Security Board for contributing $35 million in loan funding for this project and the BVI Electricity Corporation for adding the balance to complete this project.

I also use this opportunity to thank members of the public for their patience, as we moved to upgrade our generating capacity and lessen the frequency of power outages in the Territory.

I must express my appreciation, on behalf of the Government and people of the Virgin Islands, to the contractors:  Wartsila for the generation system and K Line for the transmission system and thank them for delivering. We must also express thanks to their sub-contractors - Meridian for Wartsila and K-Line sub-contractor Mr. Ashley Ritter.

Madam Speaker, I pay special tribute to the workers at the BVI Electricity Corporation, including the Board of Directors and Management, for their commitment to this project and their tireless efforts throughout the process.

The completion of the BVIEC Phase V Power Development Programme, provided an occasion for the Corporation to recognize the service of its exemplary workers and we single out Mr. Henry Wilfred “Freddie” Smith – who has dedicated close to (50) years of his life to keeping the Virgin Islands lit.

Madam Speaker, Freddie Smith’s association with the generation and supply of electricity to the Territory, dates back to 1965, at the Government Electricity, Ice and Cold Storage Department.

He started out as a Mechanic and worked as a Mechanic Foreman, Technical Officer V, Supervisor, Assistant Superintendent, Generation Superintendent, Generation Engineer and Electrical Supervisor. He retired as a Plant Manager at the BVI Electricity Corporation.

Madam Speaker, Freddie is remembered by his colleagues over the years, as one who was always willing to pass on his knowledge, even as he sought to learn more and more about the job himself. This is very commendable and an attribute that we can all adopt ourselves, Madam Speaker.

On July 20th, 2016, at the 559th meeting of the BVI Electricity Corporation, a decision was made to rename the Pockwood Pond Power Station - the Henry Wilfred “Freddie” Smith Power Station, in recognition of his long and valuable service.

On the 5th day of April 2017, Cabinet accepted the Resolution and it was adopted by the House of Assembly on April 26th, 2017. I thank my colleagues in this Honourable House who agreed along these lines on this Resolution.

Madam Speaker, as the General Manager of the BVI Electricity Corporation, Mr. Leroy Abraham, mentioned at last Thursday’s ceremony, it is impossible to guarantee a situation where we would have no more power outages.

However, the recent upgrades have certainly put us in a better stead and the Government of the Virgin Islands will continue to do its best to maintain and improve the generation of electricity to these islands.

Madam Speaker, with this in mind, I am pleased to be part of this Government’s efforts to upgrade its infrastructure throughout the Territory.

Since the Premier and his team have been in office, we have spent in excess of $100 million on the hospital development, we are now on Virgin Gorda building a mini hospital/clinic, we are about to spend about $15 million to upgrade our schools, we have spent over a million dollars on parks in Virgin Gorda and Road Town, we have spent over $83 million on the Cruise Pier, we are spending about $20 million on roads throughout the Territory, $15 million on Sewerage, $5 million on upgrades to our Water Distribution Network, we have been upgrading the Brandywine Beach and Coastal Protection in Cane Garden Bay and we have done so in the East End area and now we have spent $50 million on electricity upgrades, which gives us in excess of $305 million on our infrastructure upgrades in the Territory, among other things.

Madam Speaker, I say ‘that is good” and I am proud to be a Member of this Government and Honourable House and look forward to continuing to improve the infrastructure of this Territory for the people of the Virgin Islands.

A proud moment in the history of the Virgin Islands for us to have invested $50 million on our electricity upgrade and look forward to continuing to provide good infrastructure for the Territory of the Virgin Islands.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

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