The ongoing and seemingly unending spate of power outages is far more troubling than probably thought. With the now customary schedule of blackouts published in the media, one may have been led to believe that the outage for a particular day was that which is reflected in the advisory.
However, this was revealed not to be the case as the electricity company, Guyana Power & Light (GPL), shocked the nation by announcing last week that Guyanese have been experiencing eight outages per day, especially over the last two months. This appears to be a macro perspective as no one is spared from the company’s inability to deliver an acceptable service.
Over the past few years, the situation got worse, as the outages are far more frequent and extended. Helpless, and with no alternative to access electricity during a blackout, ordinary Guyanese have been forced to endure daily and lengthy periods of inconvenience. This latest revelation by GPL may bring into question the accuracy of the blackout schedule it publishes.
Aside from that being viewed as possibly misleading information given to the public, eight outages on average per day seem unfathomable. It is, however, the harsh reality which consumers face in this modern time. To say it is utterly unacceptable would be a gross understatement, as the inconvenience has become a major source of distress to those affected.
To small business enterprises, the lengthy outages negatively impact production and productivity and unavoidably, revenue generation as planning and timelines are thrown off track. Those with financial obligations to lending institutions would be very hard-pressed to meet commitments. The possibility for other devastating consequences, like forced termination of jobs and the business unable to be sustained, are easily created.
From the perspective of an ordinary Guyanese, their lives are constantly disrupted by any duration of power outage. Routine preparation for work and children for school are made unnecessarily difficult as basic appliances to aid that process are rendered useless. Access to much needed potable water is hampered as free movement in the dark. In addition, appliances are often damaged when the electricity switches on and off, or through the seemingly regular power surges.
Spoilage of food and food items has also increased as refrigerators are not allowed to function to keep the items wholesome for consumption. Naturally, this incurs additional and unnecessary financial burdens on the backs of hardworking Guyanese who are already challenged in that regard. There are many people who are struggling to provide the basic of meals and depend on the use of a refrigerator, no matter how small, to help preserve precious items for a budgeted period.
When those ordinary citizens are faced with additional challenges, it becomes virtually impossible for them to cope over time. They would have worked hard to be able to afford basic appliances to bring some level of ease to their lives’ daily routine. The constant power outages , therefore, strip them of that ability to be able benefit from the use of those appliances, especially when travel time is already onerous.
Students are not spared as completion of homework and preparation for examinations are severely hindered. In a time when access to the internet in crucial to learning and school projects, the setback from power outages is unimaginable. In some of these cases, alternatives, through increased data phone plans to access the internet so that project deadlines are met, are forced to be found— which comes at an additional cost. Very often, just to manoeuvre around the house or for basic revision of school work, parents and children are forced to use candles or lamps.
This is not just a backward step for both Guyana and Guyanese, but could be seen as an indictment on the electricity company to provide a reliable service. Consumers have lamented their high monthly cost for this utility service and concerns that reduction is not reflected, even after prolonged outages.
They have also voiced concern over what they describe as a burdensome process to make a successful claim for appliances damage as a result of a power surge or outage. There is also the lingering risk of a fire from that, more especially, when the electricity switches on and off frequently. Blackouts, during the nights, also provide an enabling environment for criminals to operate.
This is the reality of the impact of these outages on Guyanese. Many have questioned whether the power company fully understands this impact, especially given the lengthy time it took to inform on the true picture. Many have and continue to question the company’s implementation of mitigating measures in keeping with the growing demand.
The APNU/AFC coalition government cannot avoid blame over the poor service consumers are forced to endure. From all appearances, it has done little to improve the situation. Had it not, while in the Opposition, derail the Amaila Hydroelectricity Project— which was designed to provide cheaper, cleaner and reliable supply of power— the current woes would have been a thing of the past. The Government seemingly has found a way of keeping the past in the present.