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 where persons expressed their frustration over prolonged periods of blackouts in their communities with the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) doing very little to assuage the concerns of residents.
Businesses have also been very vocal about the huge negative impact the prolonged periods of blackouts have had on their operations. However, officials of the power company have done very little to convince the populace that serious efforts are being made to bring a lasting solution to the power woes the country has been experiencing over the years; they have been giving one excuse after the other which does not help in any way.
A few weeks ago, frustrated businessmen from Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) met with staff from the GPL at the Regional Democratic Council (RDC), where they vented their anger at the constant and prolonged power outages on the Essequibo Coast. With the northern side of the Essequibo Coast hardest hit, the businessmen pointed to the plight of residents in Charity, who have suffered greatly. They related that a number of businesses suffered tremendous losses as a direct result of the blackouts and questioned whether the company was willing to provide compensation for their suffering and losses.
One letter writer from West Coast Demerara also complained that a recent power outage in his area resulted in most of his electrical appliances being damaged. He related that he had to pay a hefty sum to ensure they are fixed or replaced. Unfortunately, this has been the experience of many consumers and has been so for many years. There is no clear policy in relation to compensation for consumers/ businesses who suffer losses due to voltage surges etc; or even if there is such, it is not being implemented in a transparent and professional manner. Many persons have claimed that in such situations GPL officials would show an uncaring and unhelpful attitude when they are approached for assistance.
While it is not our intention to sound like a pessimist, from the way it looks, ‘blackouts’ will remain with us for a very long time. Despite the promises from both the previous and present governments, that ‘blackouts’ will be “a thing of the past”, the nation is yet to see any measurable progress in relation to an affordable and reliable service to consumers. Very little has changed under this administration who used every opportunity while in opposition to criticize the previous government in relation to the manner in which the electricity sector was being managed.
At a year-end (2016) press conference, GPL had announced that some G$3 billion would be spent by the company towards the construction of four new substations. The company had explained that this formed part of G$6.6 billion that had been set aside for works to improve service delivery of the company; G$3 billion for the new substations and G$1.4 billion for renovation works to existing substations. This and other interventions were meant to contribute to the company offering a more stable electricity supply to consumers, however for the first quarter of 2017, it seems as if the service has actually deteriorated.
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. Once such issues are addressed the company would be in a better position to perform better.
After investing so many billions, in this day and age, these constant power outages are unacceptable. In addition to being a huge discomfort to citizens they discourage investors who have an interest in doing business here. The authorities must stop making excuses and find a solution to the problem once and for all.