Damage to utility poles, infrastructure disrupting GPL’s electricity distribution – PUC hears

…company pursuing compensation from reckless drivers, contractors

The Guyana Power and Light (GPL) is not at fault for every occurrence of power outage; sometimes an outage is a result of external forces: damage to the power company’s utility poles and other infrastructure.
The destruction of these items during traffic accidents, building construction and other activities is affecting GPL’s electricity distribution. As such, the company has been going after the perpetrators, including reckless drivers and companies, to have them stand the costs of repair/replacement, but this has not been very fruitful.

PUC Commissioner Dr Nanda Gopaul

This is according to GPL’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Support Services), Renford Homer. He was part of the company’s management team which appeared before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Wednesday at the Herdmanston Lodge in Georgetown for a review of GPL’s 2022 Operating Standards and Performance Targets (OSPT).
PUC Commissioner Dr Nanda Gopaul interrogated the power company’s management about the mechanisms in place to surcharge persons responsible for these accidents which cause the destruction of properties along the roadways, while pointing out that GPL has become a “major victim” of road accidents.
According to Dr Gopaul, these accidents disrupt consumers’ lives. In light of this, he said, a message has to be sent to road users that they will be held accountable for damaging GPL’s property.
He asked whether insurance companies would stand the cost to repair/replace damaged property, and if there are provisions governing road operation to allow GPL to go after reckless drivers.
“I have been affected several times, not because of GPL, but because of people moving in a reckless manner and causing accidents”, Commissioner Gopaul highlighted.

GPL’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Support Services), Renford Homer

In reply, Homer admitted that these kinds of accidents affect GPL’s services.

Traffic accidents, construction
In response to the increase in disruption of service caused by traffic accidents and construction, Homer explained, as of September 2022, GPL commenced a procedure that involves persons from its Transmission, Legal and Loss Reduction departments and the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
“In this process, we have the evidence to support that this particular vehicle or this particular equipment owned by this particular contractor…Our Legal Department reaches out to whoever is the individual or company that has caused the disruption. We look at basically, for that period [of disruption], what is the cost of the service and the cost of the bill…,” Homer outlined.

A 24-year-old taxi driver from Tain, Corentyne, Berbice died last month after crashing his car into this utility pole along the Auchlyne Public Road, Corentyne, Berbice

Although the bill would be handed over to the company/ individual for them to compensate the power company,Homer confessed that GPL has not been very successful in receiving compensation, and said that the company has intensified its efforts in this regard.
“What we have been doing (is): recognising that this appears to be something on the increase, we have been issuing notices. As a matter of fact, every time in recent times, when we have had a disruption to the network as a result of these incidents, we ensure that we have that up on our Facebook, in the media.” These notices, he added, always include the tagline that those responsible for the disruption would be held liable.

In April 2022, private contractors operating excavators behind Diamond, Housing Scheme, East Bank Demerara damaged power distribution lines, causing a total shutdown of the Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS)

GPL has also been working with the Public Works Ministry to enforce this policy, and to even sensitise that Ministry’s contractors on the issue. According to this senior official, GPL and the Public Works Ministry have collaborated to review contracts to see whether there is special mention of the consequences of coming into contact with the company’s network. He asserted that GPL wants to curb this trend.
Private contractors and/or Government agencies executing infrastructural works within close proximity (approximately 20 feet) to GPL’s network are required to notify the company within 72 hours prior to commencing work, so that the actions deemed necessary to facilitate the safe execution of work can be determined and undertaken. In addition, the electricity company has been imploring road users to exercise caution on the roadways. (G1)