A historical perspective
THE EARLY YEARS
The early history of electricity in Trinidad and Tobago is closely connected with public transport which commenced in 1882, with concessions being given to operate tramway services in the city of Port of Spain.
In December 1886, a group of local businessmen was granted a 20-year franchise to run an electric Power Station and tramway system in Port of Spain.
In 1894, Edgar Tripp formed the Electric Light and Power Company. In March 1895, electricity was installed for the first time in Trinidad and two of the first buildings to have electric lights were the original Queen’s Park Hotel and the Princess Building. The first street lights were installed on March 5th, 1895.
A Canadian businessman bought the Electric and Transport System from local businessmen in 1901 and obtained at the same time a 30-year monopoly. The Company was called the Trinidad Electric Company Limited.
When that franchise came to an end in 1933, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago decided it would take over the Company and by 1945 proceeded with an island-wide electricity scheme.
THE FIRST DECADE—1946-1956
The Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission came into being by virtue of the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission Ordinance No. 42 of 1945. It was formed to generate electricity and to distribute it outside the city of Port of Spain and the town of San Fernando.
The Commission held its first Board Meeting on 28th December, 1945 and T&TEC began its operations on 1st January 1946. It was responsible for the Generation, Transmission and Distribution of electricity throughout Trinidad and Tobago.
In 1946, the Commission served 6,613 customers and operated one Power Station on Wrightson Road. Under Chairman Sir Errol dos Santos (1946 – 1949) and General Manager J.H. Reid (1946 – 1950) the Commission undertook to build an additional Power Station in Penal and to make use of the natural gas available in the South as fuel.
Early in 1946, the Commission began an expansion of its Distribution System from Point Cumana to Carenage and by the end of February a few houses were connected to the System. Later on in 1946, the Commission extended its supply to Arima, Sangre Grande and along the Southern Main Road to Chaguanas.
Electricity was first used in Tobago in 1946. In 1952, a 20′ x 10′ green hut was sent from Penal to Tobago to become the Tobago site office. In September of that year a Power station sized at 60′ x 30′ was officially declared open at Darrel Spring Road and the Commission began generating electricity in Tobago.
The Commission also proceeded immediately with its plan to extend the supply, which up to this time reached only from Chaguaramas to Sangre Grande, to the Central and Southern parts of Trinidad. Thus in 1952, supply was first given to the Central part of the island, followed in 1954, by the extension of the supply to Brighton and in 1955, to Santa Flora.
Meanwhile in 1951, a Trade School was opened by Kenneth W. Finch, General Manager (1951 – 1963), who himself brought the School to reality to help the youth of the territory. First recruitment consisted of twenty apprentices who underwent a five-year training course.
In August 1953, the new Head Office building on Frederick Street was opened by Sir Hubert Rance, then Governor of Trinidad and Tobago.
THE SECOND DECADE—1956-1966
The electricity supply was extended beyond Catshill to Rio Claro and Mayaro, to the site of the government’s new dam at Navet, in 1957.
At midnight on April 19th 1961, the Port of Spain Corporation Electricity Board handed over the “assets and liabilities” of the Corporation to T&TEC which at the same time took over the electricity Distribution System from the San Fernando Borough Council. Thus was created one unified Public Electricity Supply Industry for the whole country.
The village of Toco received its first supply of electricity in 1961 when T&TEC’s 50-kilowatt generator, housed in a mobile van, went into action.
Under the Chairmanship of E. Vernon Wharton (1957 – 1963) and General Manager Kenneth Finch (1951 – 1963), the number of customers on supply increased to 98,954.
In this decade, a new office was opened at Gooding Village, San Fernando. A Depot was opened in Rio Claro and the Electrical Association for Women was established in Trinidad and Tobago.
The first local General Manager in the person of Karl Seheult was appointed to the Commission in 1964.
The first submarine cable, measuring 23 miles long, was laid between Trinidad and Tobago in 1965. It was officially commissioned in 1966.
THE THIRD DECADE—1966-1976
This was a time of industrial revolution. Under the stewardship of Sir Alan Reece (Chairman), Karl Seheult (General Manager) then Leslie Dookhie (General Manager) and Ivan Yee (Deputy General Manager) T&TEC commissioned the Port of Spain ‘B’ Power Station in 1966 and installed an 80-megawatt generating unit.
Work progressed in Tobago between 1967 and 1969 with the Assisted Wiring Scheme being introduced in 1967. Thirty-nine houses were wired and by 1969, 90% of the Tobago Electricity Programme was complete.
In 1970, two 700-kilowatt Worthington diesel alternators were synchronized in Tobago.
General Manager, Karl Seheult, declared 1971 “The Year of Internal Reconstruction”, thereby establishing the first Public Relations Policy of the Commission.
T&TEC took up sponsorship of Blue Stars Steelband, which became known as T&TEC Power Stars, in 1967. The Tobago East Side Steel Orchestra also benefited from T&TEC’s sponsorship in 1971.
Also in 1971 T&TEC took over the supply of power to Forest Reserve from Texaco. For the first time in its history, T&TEC was forced to “shed load” because of damage to the No. 2 boiler of the 50-MW Generating Unit and to the pump impeller of the 80-MW Generating Unit at the Port of Spain Power Station.
Leslie Dookhie assumed office as General Manager in 1972, following the retirement of Karl Seheult, the first local General Manager.
With the oil boom in 1974, came an increased demand for power from areas within the oil belt. T&TEC responded by building a new Gas Line from Point Galeota to Guayaguayare, installing another 80-MW Generating Unit at the Power Station in Port of Spain.
In 1975, Leo Martin became the third local person to be appointed General Manager.
THE FOURTH DECADE—1966-1976
Trinidad and Tobago was still experiencing a climate of economic boom, particularly in the oil and energy sectors and the demand for electricity continued to increase. Professor Ken Julien (Chairman) along with Leo Martin (General Manager), George Ford and John Woon Sam (Deputy General Managers) in succession led the Utility in meeting the needs of a rapidly developing country.
The Minister for Tobago Affairs, Wilbert Winchester, formally inaugurated the new 586-KW Diesel Generator at the Tobago Power Station.
Two 20-MW Gas Turbines were installed at the Penal Power Station in 1976.
ThePoint Lisas Power Station was formally opened by the Honourable Dr. Eric Williams in 1977, to keep abreast of developments at the Point Lisas Industrial Estate.
In 1979, a new Central Distribution Area began operations on the compound of the Point Lisas Power Station in order to provide a more efficient service to customers of Central Trinidad. Between 1979 and 1982, nine gas turbine-alternators were commissioned at the Point Lisas Power Station.
In 1981 the Iron and Steel Company of Trinidad and Tobago (ISPAT) began to make heavy demands on the electricity system using 40 MW of power to produce 90 tonnes of steel for the first time.
During this decade, T&TEC also suffered its share of problems. In March 1982, fire destroyed the 50MVA transformer at the Barataria Substation. This resulted in a loss of reliability in North-West Trinidad for approximately eight months.
The installation of high-pressure sodium lamps began in 1982 on the Solomon Hochoy Highway; at the San Fernando Bye Pass; Harris Promenade; Frederick Street; Independence Square; Queen’s Park East and West and Lady Young Road. The offshore islands also benefited from T&TEC when in 1983, a new submarine cable was laid to provide supply to Point Gourde, Kronstadt and Carrera.
By 1985, the first 66-KV transmission line from Penal to Point Fortin was energized and the new offices of the Point Fortin Depot were opened. Dr. Cuthbert Joseph, Minister of Public Utilities, commissioned the 196-MW Combined Cycle Generating Plant at Penal Power Station on December 7th, 1985.
THE FIFTH DECADE—1986-1996
By the beginning of 1996, the Commission’s customers numbered approximately 299,000. During this decade of structural adjustment there were fewer resources for expenditure but the Commission was able to meet the demands of both commercial and industrial customers. Chairmen Neil Lau, St. Clair King, Stephan Gift and L. Andre Monteil, moved the Utility along.
The Commission opened the new Central Area Distribution Office in 1987. Two Substations, one in Savonetta and the other in Diamond Vale, were commissioned and the No. 1 Cooling Tower at Penal was rebuilt and commissioned between 1988 and 1993.
Mr. Stanley P. Ottley was appointed General Manager in 1992. In 1993, the Commercial Department was created with the objective of improving customer service. It was also responsible for co-ordinating strategies aimed at improving the revenue base by enhancing the range of quality services provided.
In 1994, Hot Line Work on the Commission’s Distribution System was introduced along with electronic handheld meters for the Commission’s Meter Reading System.
On 24th December, 1994, T&TEC established a fully owned subsidiary, the Power Generation Company of Trinidad and Tobago (PowerGen) in which it vested the generation assets of its Port-of-Spain, Pt. Lisas and Penal power stations. Forty-nine percent equity in PowerGen was then divested to a consortium of Southern Electric International (39%) and Amoco(10%). T&TEC retains the remaining equity 51%.