Successive governments had promised that blackouts would be a thing of the past, but, from all indications, it is clear that Guyanese will have to wait much longer to see promise becoming reality. Over the past few months, the complaints coming from various sections of the population, including private citizens and business, about constant power outages, have increased dramatically. In fact, recently, there have been several letters to the editor wherein persons have expressed their frustration over prolonged periods of blackout in their communities.
Three days ago, the Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS) suffered yet another shutdown, causing power outages in several communities. The utility company announced shortly after that the system was indeed nonfunctional, and promised that the situation would be rectified. On Wednesday last, a burnt primary conductor on the L23 transmission line caused disruptions along the area from Canefield to Auchlyne in Berbice. Two weeks ago, the DBIS recorded a shutdown due to a fault in one of the circuit breakers at the Garden of Eden Power Plant. This caused a “lock out” of the busbar facilitating the transfer of power from four generators. According to GPL, the “sudden” loss of 18 megawatts of generator capacity resulted in the shutdown.
GPL’s poor services have come under criticism many times, primarily by the general populace. In addition to being a discomfort to many, everyone knows that constant power surges can result in severe damage to household appliances, and even cause fires etc. It is even more frustrating when one considers that GPL does not have any clear policy relative to providing compensation when electrical appliances or machinery etc are damaged due to irregular power supply.
Businesses have also been very vocal about the huge negative impact the prolonged periods of blackout have had on their operations. Now that Guyana’s oil and gas sector is about to take off, it would be in the country’s interest to have a reliable supply of power. Investors, manufacturers and many others will not be attracted to come here and do business if the present situation relative to electricity supply continues.
It is clear that both businesses and private individuals are dissatisfied with the service being provided by the power company, especially since the cost they are paying for such service has not decreased; in fact, it has increased over the past few years. This is so despite the fact that the Government has been saving billions of dollars, considering the low oil price.
At present, it is still not clear what steps are being taken to bring a lasting solution to the power woes this country has been experiencing. In fact, officials have been giving one excuse after the other, which does not help in any way. Some experts believe there is a manifest lack of short- and long-term solutions to address the company’s inefficiency. They have expressed the view that no relief is being provided by the Government in the short-term, and no effective plan is in place to address the situation in the medium- to-long-term, which could eventually see the problem deteriorating further.
It is widely believed that Guyana could have been in a better position regarding an affordable, reliable supply of electricity if there were bipartisan support for the Amaila Falls Hydro Power (AFHP) project, which should have been in the system from 2017. The present Government, while in Opposition, basically killed the project on purely partisan political grounds.
Very little has changed under the APNU/AFC Administration, which had used every opportunity to criticize the previous Government for the manner in which the electricity sector was being managed.
That said, we are not oblivious to the many problems being experienced by the power company. These problems, which include line losses and electricity theft, have been known for decades, and have certainly had a tremendous impact on the company’s ability to provide better services to Guyanese consumers. The extent of electricity theft is shocking, and GPL must continue to tackle the issue frontally.
After investing so many billions in this day and age, these constant power outages are unacceptable. The authorities must stop making excuses and find a solution to the problem once and for all.