GPL woes

The complaints coming from both private citizens and the business community about the constant power outages have increased over the past few months. In fact, there have recently been several letters to the editor wherein persons expressed frustration over periods of blackout in their communities, with the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) doing very little to convince the populace that blackouts would become a thing of the past.
Despite promises from both the previous and present administrations, that the nation would benefit from improved electricity supply, consumers are yet to see any measurable progress in relation to an affordable and reliable service. In fact, despite major investment under this current administration, the country is still plagued with electricity woes.
We agree with Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo, who on Thursday, while sympathising with Guyanese who are affected by frequent power outages, said, “The situation is bad, there is no sugarcoating this.”
To quote the VP: “We are not going to say people are not justified in the harsh comments they make, because we feel it ourselves. Because we live here and we are consumers too. It’s not that the Government is aloof from these concerns, (but) sometimes explanations don’t help at that moment…yes, the performance of GPL is atrocious in many cases, but also we are dealing with a real fact: growth demand and old equipment.”
He did, however, disclose that Government is seeking to purchase an additional 40 to 80 megawatts of power for the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc, in order to offset increasing demands.
With the opening up of new housing schemes around the country, there is an increased demand for electricity, which means that more energy has to be generated to satisfy that demand. If serious efforts are not made to produce more electricity to meet this increasing demand, there would always be pressure on the existing systems, resulting in power surges and extended periods of blackout.
Businesses have been very vocal about the huge negative impact the prolonged periods of blackout have had on their operations. While it would be difficult to place a monetary figure on the extent of the economic loss resulting from unstable power, it would be correct to say that the losses in terms of downtime and lost business have been quite significant.
In addition to the disruption to manufacturing and trading, among other industries, there is also the disruption to the night-time entertainment industry.
An unstable electricity supply in any country serves as a deterrent. While some large businesses in the manufacturing sector have opted to provide their own independent power supply, small businesses cannot afford to do so, since the use of an alternative power supply adds significantly to operating costs.
That said, we are not oblivious to the many problems being experienced by GPL. These problems, which include line losses, particularly owing to electricity theft, have been known for decades, and have certainly had a tremendous impact on the company’s ability to provide better services to consumers. The extent of electricity theft in Guyana is shocking, and GPL must continue to tackle the issue frontally. The costs for stolen electricity are passed down to ordinary consumers, who are made to feel the brunt of such illegal actions. All efforts must therefore be made to ensure that persons who are involved in such practices are placed before the courts. No doubt, once such issues are addressed, the company would be in a better position to perform better.
It is unacceptable that citizens are still faced with unexplained blackouts and voltage surges. In fairness to GPL, it is clear they understand the depth of the problem, and how consumers and businesses are affected. However, the company, and by extension the Government, must take the necessary steps to fix the problem of blackouts once and for all. Anything less is unacceptable.