Pres Ali blasts GPL top brass over persistent power failures

– says outages rooted in 2015-2020 mismanagement
– funding sought from UK bank to replace aging transmission system

President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Tuesday read the riot act to the management and Board of Directors of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL), making it clear that while the power outages have their genesis in mismanagement from 2015 to 2020, he is still dissatisfied with the service being provided.
Guyana has been enduring a spate of blackouts over the past week, following what the GPL has described as engine failures at different locations. On Tuesday, President Ali sat down with the management of GPL, as well as Power Producers and Distributors Incorporated (PPDI) and Wartsilla, two companies that play integral roles in generating the power.

President Dr Irfaan Ali during the meeting with the GPL management and other power officials

During the meeting, the first of a series of planned meetings, the Head of State read the riot act to them over the poor performance of the power company. The President in a statement acknowledged that his government inherited several problems at GPL in 2020.
According to him, this is due to a lack of maintenance and investments from the former A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) government. Added to this, according to President Ali, is the growth in energy demand and the lack of redundancy in an ageing system.
Meanwhile, the President also revealed that the government has already approached the United Kingdom Export Finance (UKEF) to explore financing for the ageing transmission system. Additionally, President Ali said that GPL has been tasked with considering alternative options to meet the short-term demand for power.

GPL officials including Executive and Management Committee member Kesh Nandlall Kesh Nandlall, as they listen to the President

This is especially true since demand is expected to grow by 30 MegaWatts this year and the Gas-to-Energy project, which will introduce 300 MegaWatts of power, doesn’t come on-stream until next year.

Meanwhile, former Public Infrastructure Minister and now AFC Member of Parliament David Patterson released a missive in which he defended the management of GPL, which fell under his purview, during APNU/AFC’s tenure.
While Patterson admitted that GPL had a limited budget and several things had not been addressed at the power company by the time they left office in 2020, Patterson maintained that significant investments and progress were made under his tenure.
“During the Coalition’s tenure, 300km of high voltage transmission lines were repaired or upgraded, 16km of new feeder cables were installed, the express feeders on the Demerara Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS) were completely upgraded.”
“A new submarine cable linking Vreed-en-Hoop and Princess Street was installed, 486km of new secondary distribution lines were installed, 19km of secondary distribution lines were upgraded, 87,717 service lines were replaced, 502 new transformers were installed and 2,292 defective transformers were replaced,” Patterson further wrote.
Mention was also made by the former Minister of a US$900 Million line of credit from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) that the coalition secured in 2018. According to Patterson, had this loan been operationalized GPL would have been in a better position today.
“The first request to utilize these funds was a loan of US$110M for GPL to construct new substations, a new additional transmission and distribution network, as well as upgrading the existing power infrastructure,” he said.

GPL has been dealing with power failure woes for some time, with the government having to bring in 29.9 MegaWatts of additional power in the form of generators last year. It is anticipated that once the Gas-to-Energy project is online next year, Guyanese will benefit from not only cheaper but more reliable power.
As of January, this year, the marine offloading facility has been completed, and 26 kilometres (km) of onshore pipelines have been installed. Once completed, the project will allow Guyanese to benefit from 50 per cent reduced electricity costs.
As it is now, the electricity demand has been steadily rising. This year alone, the electricity demand is projected to peak at 236 megawatts; however, GPL can generate approximately 180 megawatts of power.
In 2020, the power demand was around 120 megawatts and this grew to 136 megawatts in 2021; 156 megawatts in 2022; and then peaked at 184 megawatts in 2023. Last year’s peak was recorded when all industrial customers were on the grid.
Another issue that has severely affected GPL is the theft of electricity, which continues to cost it millions of dollars every year. Thousands of people, mostly in depressed communities and squatting areas, climb utility poles and attach wires to GPL’s network, while many of them tamper with meters to decrease their actual energy consumption.