PUC cites GPL for failing to attain majority of targets, but will not impose sanctions

…says power company needs to make “greater effort” to reduce losses

The Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has called out the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc for failing to meet its targets but has decided that it will not sanction the power company.
This decision was taken by the Commission after its recent Annual Public Hearing held in March to review the 2022 Operating Standards and Performance Targets of GPL. The hearing is in keeping with the amendments to GPL’s Licence, which mandates the power company to report on its achievements of its Operating Standards and Performance Targets for the previous calendar year to the Commission at a Public Hearing.
In its report from that public hearing, the PUC said “GPL continually fails to attain the majority of its operating standards and performance targets as prescribed within the Company’s approved Development and Expansion programme even though many of these targets are way below the industry norms.”
Notwithstanding GPL’s statutory failings, the Commission did recognise that the power company continues to implement and explore innovative measures to bolster its commitment to its consumers.
One of the areas that the PUC has expressed grave concern over is GPL’s insistence on using the failure of handheld devices as a shield in the achievement of meter readings for maximum demand consumers. According to the Commission, however, it has noted the prospect of improvements as the power company continues to procure and deploy new handheld devices. It is hopeful that this target can be met in the current year, the report detailed.
Additionally, the Utilities Commission also went on to cite the high percentage of system losses which it says continues to be a “bane on the financial stability” of the power company.
“It is another cause for continued concern. GPL needs to make a greater effort to reduce these losses as it will continue to hamper efforts to reduce the price of electricity to consumers,” the Commission stated.
However, the PUC further outlined in the report that since many of GPL’s targets were ‘nearly met,’ there will be no penalties imposed against the power company over its operational failures.
“…the Commission, after careful deliberation, has determined that the imposition of penalty on GPL for its non-achievements of the consumer interruptions, voltage regulation, meter reading and average availability standards and targets is not warranted at this time although the non-attainment negatively impacts on GPL’s operations, especially in its drive to provide reliable, affordable and quality energy services to all its customers.”
Despite this decision, however, the PUC emphasised in the report that it will continue to vigorously monitor the electricity sector so that GPL would be properly positioned to reach its contractual obligations and legal mandate to the consumers of Guyana.
During last month’s public hearing, GPL had contended that it is not at fault for every occurrence of power outage, which in some cases are as a result of external forces such as damage to its utility poles and other infrastructure.
According to GPL’s Deputy Chief Executive Officer (Support Services), Renford Homer, the destruction of these items during traffic accidents, building construction and other activities is affecting GPL’s electricity distribution. As such, he said the company has been going after the perpetrators, including reckless drivers and companies, to have them stand the costs of repair/replacement, but this has not been very fruitful.
Homer was at the time responding to queries made by PUC Commissioner, Dr Nanda Gopaul about the mechanisms in place to surcharge persons responsible for the destruction of properties along the roadways. Dr Gopaul posited that GPL has become a “major victim” of road accidents.
But the GPL Deputy CEO explained, as of September 2022, GPL commenced a procedure that involves persons from its Transmission, Legal and Loss Reduction Departments and the Guyana Police Force (GPF).
“In this process, we have the evidence to support that this particular vehicle or this particular equipment owned by this particular contractor…Our Legal Department reaches out to whoever is the individual or company that has caused the disruption. We look at basically, for that period [of disruption], what is the cost of the service and the cost of the bill…,” Homer outlined.
However, even though the bill would be handed over to the company/individual for them to compensate the power company, Homer confessed that GPL has not been very successful in this regard and has since intensified its efforts. This includes issuing notices outlining that those responsible for the disruption would be held liable.
In addition, GPL has also been working with the Public Works Ministry to enforce this policy, and to even sensitise the Ministry’s contractors on the issue.
Meanwhile, GPL’s Divisional Director (Power Generation and Distribution), Bharat Harjohn, also reported to the PUC during the public hearing that an average of 96 hours of power interruption was experienced in 2022 – a 10 per cent reduction from the disruptions recorded the previous year.
According to Harjohn, a number of factors cause the frequency and duration of outages, including plant maintenance, emergency outages, transmission and feeder line trips, switching activities on the network to allow for maintenance or isolation of a fault, generation shortfall, and generation trips.
He noted, however, that GPL is working to address the liability of electricity and among the measures being taken is moving away from using wooden structures and instead introduce concrete structures, tubing steel poles and fibreglass poles. (G8)