GPL to roll out smart grid system to combat electricity theft, reduce overall losses

– to add 245 megawatts to national grid by year-end

The Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) continues to face severe challenges relative to electricity losses, which currently stand at approximately 25 per cent of its output. To address this issue, the company is relying on a smart grid system which would be established under the second phase of the Gas-to-Energy (GTE) project.
Explaining the smart grid system during a recent meeting of the Parliamentary Sectoral Committee on Economic Services, Prime Minister Brigadier Mark Phillips said GPL officials would be able to operate from a remote area from which they can “disconnect electricity, identify where electricity is being used and is not being metered.”

GPL CEO Kesh Nandlall

“So, there is technology out there, that we will be investing in, that will help us to better identify the technical and non-technical losses, and therefore take the necessary action to ensure we are not in the position that we’re in today,” he explained.
According to the GPL Development and Expansion Programme 2022-2026, the application of a smart grid essentially means that all control, communication and switching mechanisms within the Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS) would be automated, controlled (locally and remotely), and supervised by a modern supervisory control and data acquisition – energy management system (SCADA-EMS).
It has been reported that there is currently no control system in place to provide such a timely response to avoid a cascaded system shutdown. As such, in the event of system disturbance, plant operators are forced to react by adjusting generator units manually, in order to stabilise the power system.
While monitoring the power system’s frequency, the operators at System Control cannot react at the required speed and ascertain which generator unit(s) need(s) to respond, and in what magnitude, to stem a cascaded system shutdown blackout.
However, the smart grid system would optimise the power system in real time through generator economic dispatch and transmission and distribution load management.

Prime Minister Mark Phillips

The GPL plan details that, given the smart grid’s scope of work, the expected duration of this project is almost two years, commencing in the first quarter of 2026.
Nevertheless, through this Development and Expansion Programme, the GPL expects to configure and equip the transmission and distribution networks to be Smart Grid-ready by 2026.
In the interim, Acting Chief Executive Officer of GPL, Kesh Nandlall, noted, GPL is working on several programmes, including “going out there and looking at consumption patterns; changing out defective meters, and removing illegal connections from the network in some areas”, in order to reduce electricity losses.
According to the acting CEO, there are 70,000 meters to be changed out there. “It’s a combination of issues that adds up to commercial losses. It includes defective meters; it includes theft of electricity, building errors, and other factors. It’s costing the company significantly, and it requires you to generate more,” Nandlall has said.
He told the Parliamentary Committee that electricity theft is 13 per cent of the 25 per cent losses experienced by the company. However, he was unable to pinpoint where the exact losses exist.
“Guyana has a peculiar problem, and we need to understand that: where it is common for people to interfere with GPL network. And it doesn’t necessarily exist all over the world to the extreme that it exists in Guyana. You can’t run away from that,” Nandlall has said.

The Garden of Eden Power Plant

“You go into communities and see blatantly that they are connecting directly onto the grid with wires. You go back one month and is the same problem. These are the challenges we face; we’re working, however, as much as we can, and we have strategies to direct us where we will be more effective,” he explained, as he noted that there will be significant investment in the transmission and distribution network to solve the problem in the long term.
Currently, GPL is generating enough to meet peak demand, and is aiming to produce at least 265 megawatts of electricity by the end of 2024. According to Nandlall, the gross generation for GPL is expected to grow by 20 per cent per annum between 2024 and 2028, and the peak demand would grow by 18 per cent per annum. As at May 2024, he said, the peak demand has been recorded at 183 megawatts — the highest for the year.
“By the end of May, the Columbia Power Plant will be commissioned, which will add 8.1 megawatts (of) available generation. By the end of May also, we will have completed one of the units at Kingston, and that will be (adding) 6.9 megawatts which will take us (to) 224.4 megawatts (availability…) By the end of July 2024, another engine will make available 5.5 megawatts at Kingston, which will take us to 229.9 or 230 by the end of December 2024. All of our maintenance issues should be caught up with, as we have to incrementally bring down these sets to maintain them, and we should have available 245 megawatts,” Nandlall indicated.
“We will also continue to increase our generation…we are going to add another 30 megawatts to the grid, and we are working to source that at this point,” he added. The GTE project is expected to add 300 megawatts of power to the national grid.