“Blackouts” will only worsen – Jagdeo warns

GPL woes

…unless urgent, affirmative action is taken

Even with a change of management at the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), power outages remain a reality for thousands across Guyana. Coming out swinging at the power company, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has pointed out that without effective action, the energy situation would only get worse.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo

During a recent press conference, Jagdeo decried the constant power outages coming from the GPL. Using the Amaila Falls Hydro Project which the Government has officially abandoned, he said the absence of a strong alternative energy policy is behind GPL’s woes.
“With the daily blackouts now, I see an ad from (Minister of Public Infrastructure David) Patterson’s outfit, saying they’ve saved Guyana tons of money by supplying power (from Power Producers and Distribution Incorporated) to GPL. The whole (previous) night we had blackout, the (next) day the ad was in the newspapers,” a frustrated Jagdeo said.
The former President said some of the units that have to generate power are old and may have to be put in reserve. He posited that, without Government putting an effective plan in place, power outages would only get worse.
“It’s going to get worse because they’re not taking steps to address it. There is no new power. Amaila should have been in the system from 2017, (providing) 100 megawatts. There is no new installed capacity in the horizon now,” he said.
“They’re still running with what the PPP had (while) in office, and we had planned to bring in an additional 160 megawatts of power. So those units, some of them are already old and they need to be replaced or put in reserve. But if there’s no plan, it’s going to get worse,” Jagdeo predicted.
In a bid to revamp its operations, GPL recently appointed Albert Gordon, a Jamaican, as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO). The appointment of this former Vice President of the Jamaican Water Commission took effect on February 1.
Gordon has replaced the former GPL acting CEO Renford Homer. His appointment has come at a time when GPL is touting the use of renewable energy, such as wind, to power its national grid.

No capacity
But, indeed, industry experts have expressed the view that GPL may not have the capacity to benefit from renewable energy. At a forum sponsored by the University of Guyana last year, head of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat’s Energy Unit, Dr Devon Gardner, had described GPL’s generation and distribution systems as below industry standards. He had noted that while GPL is contending with reaching unserved areas, there is also pressure surrounding the utility company going green. He painted a picture of a company that has bitten off more than it could chew.
“To start with, the grid they currently operate is not in the best of shape, to say it mildly. There’s not a lot of investment that is going into the grid right now. And the fact is: it’s always difficult to manage and maintain infrastructure in countries like Guyana, where the population density is very small compared to the distance over which the grid is run,” Gardner had said.
Dr Gardner had further explained that the longer the transmission line a utility company uses, the more that company’s losses are likely to be from both a technical and criminal standpoint — from the increased possibility of theft. The specialist noted that this all amounts to lost revenue and investment diverted away from upgrading the grid.
For perspective, Gardner had explained that the industry’s standard of transmission losses is five to six per cent, compared to GPL’s 28 per cent. He noted that as a result of these statistics, GPL could stand to benefit from the introduction of renewables.
But the absence of any significant renewable energy from the grid is costing the company. In the Ministry of Finance’s 2017 Mid-year Report it was detailed that GPL’s expenditure increased from $9.3 billion in the first half of 2016 to $12.6 billion in the same period this year.
However, this increase in expenditure was noted to be due to higher costs for Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), reinforcing the need for clean and renewable energy if the Government hopes to cut costs.