GPL exceeded power outage limit for 2019

PUC review

…power company blames shutdowns on Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System

The Guyana Power and Light (GPL) exceeded its power outage limit for 2019. This is according to a recent review of the power company’s Operating Standards and Performance Targets (OSPT) conducted by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
GPL did not meet the System Average Interruption Frequency Index: (SAIFI) – a standard which limits the average number of power outages customers received during 2019 to no more than 68.

GPL DCEO of Strategic Operations, Samaroo Ramtahal

“The average number of outages experienced by a consumer was 104. The explanations offered by GPL for this failure were due to the Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS) experiencing five shutdowns during the year and the inability of the company to provide redundancy during maintenance of the transmission system. Generation shortfalls from time to time worsened the situation,” PUC noted in the review.
GPL also failed to meet the System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI). The intent of this standard is to limit the duration of power outages that a consumer would have received during the year to no more than 80 hours.
According to the PUC, the average duration experienced by consumers during 2019 was 104 hours. The power company’s explanation in not meeting this target was basically the same for not attaining SAIFI; namely that the shortfall in generation together with the instability of the transmission system resulted in higher numbers of intended outages.

PUC Chairperson, Attorney-at-Law Dela Britton

In reviewing the performance of GPL’s Customer Interruption, PUC said, “We took into consideration the constraints faced by the company and its planned programmes to reduce consumers’ interruptions. The impact on consumers whilst this is a cause for frustration was in fact mitigated as outages lasted for shorter durations than was originally planned.”
Should the PUC find that GPL has failed to meet its Operating Standards and Performance Targets as provided for, it may impose a monetary penalty on the company in an amount not exceeding 25 per cent of the total value of the dividend payable to the company’s shareholder(s) in the calendar year.
While the PUC noted that it recognises the operating standards are set within the framework of the company’s existing infrastructure and cash flow limitations, it said that most of the standards fall far short of what would constitute an efficient utility.
The Commission, therefore, underscored that there remains much to be done to attain these standards and it is hoped that there will be incremental improvements in the quality of service to consumers going forward.

CEO of Giftland Mall,
Roy Beepat

The PUC, in reviewing GPL’s performance, took into consideration the resources available to the company during the period under review, as well as other factors which may have impacted the company’s overall performance.
Having regard to all submissions and taking into consideration the explanations offered by officials of GPL, PUC found that it is not prudent at this time to issue a monetary penalty against the company since its failure to meet certain targets was mitigated by the fact that they were not excessive and the impact on consumers was not burdensome.

Power from Giftland Mall
An estimated $35 million per month will be paid to the Giftland Mall for the supply of electricity to GPL as the entity pursues various initiatives aimed at increasing its power generation capacity to ultimately bring an end to the constant power outages which continue to be a major bugbear for many citizens.
The Giftland Mall currently has a system that produces 6.7 megawatts of electricity, 5 megawatts of which is HFO [heavy fuel oil] fuelled. However, it only uses 1.6 megawatts during prime operations. The excess power, which is approximately 3.3 megawatts daytime and 4.6 megawatts at night, will be supplied to the national grid by this month-end.
According to information received, an average of US$46,000 will be paid per month for power from Giftland. This would translate to some $9.9 million per month. In addition, GPL will be paying for fuel at around $25.6 million per month. In total, this would work out to approximately $35.5 million per month.

New generators
Deputy Chief Executive Officer (DCEO) of Strategic Operations, Samaroo Ramtahal recently announced that the company has a plan in place to ensure that customers are supplied with reliable electricity, especially for the upcoming Christmas season.
Apart from bringing on stream the power supply system from Giftland Mall, Ramtahal said that
GPL is currently looking to activate a new 30-megawatt dual engine generator by December. That aside, he explained that GPL has been faced with specific challenges over the last five years as there was “very small investment” in electricity generation.
According to the DCEO, some of the generators in use by the power company are beyond their lifespan. For instance, he said that some of them are 20 years old and beyond. The DCEO added that the power company’s biggest challenge has to do with the ageing generators, and that this issue will be addressed from now until December.
With regards to supply and demand, he admitted that GPL is struggling to balance the two.
For its supply, he said that there are between 130-135 megawatts available. During peak hours, the demand is between 120 and 125 megawatts. However, this means that GPL is only currently operating with a spare capacity of between five to 10 megawatts.
“Now that is very, very low. And that is the Demerara-Berbice Interconnection System,” he noted adding that typically, any utility company in the Caribbean would have at least between 30-35 per cent in the reserve.
“We are under five per cent. So that means when you have a problem at any one of the locations with the generators, the system would go off because we cannot balance supply and demand,” Ramtahal further noted.
This, he pointed out, is the reason for the frequent blackouts. “That is a big part of the reason although we have other transmission and distribution line problems.”
Moreover, the GPL official said that the best possibility to reduce the cost of electricity in Guyana is to utilise natural gas from the oil and gas sector. In that regard, he said that in the next two years, GPL hopes to bring on board a 200-megawatt generator powered by natural gas.