— as GPL undertakes critical needs assessment of its operations
By Navendra Seoraj
SHEDDING light on the underlying problems affecting its operations is the aim of Guyana Power and Light (GPL), as it has undertaken a “needs assessment” to identify specific and critical requirements, which, when addressed, would boost the efficiency of the service offered to Guyanese.
For years, consumers have complained consistently about their inability to enjoy reliable power supply, as spates of blackouts have been common because of certain operational issues at the utility company.
In August, after being elected to office, the new government found that the national grid was providing 120 megawatts of electricity, an amount which is equal to the consumer demand of 117-120 megawatts of power; this leaves no room for reserve power.
Since then, there have been major capital injections into the company to address this and other issues, but President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, has said that GPL was advised recently to identify the gaps in the system and determine what is needed for there to be a reliable and stable supply of power.
According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), access to modern energy services, of which reliable electricity is a part, is fundamental to fulfilling basic social needs, driving economic growth and fuelling human development. This is because energy services have an effect on productivity, health, education, safe water and communication services.
For developing nations such as Guyana, the need for reliable and affordable energy is more fundamental. The general understanding is that reliable energy, in these countries, supports expanded industry, modern agriculture, increased trade and improved transportation.
Guyana, being on the cusp of economic transformation, fuelled by advancement in its petroleum and other productive sectors, will be depending heavily on reliable energy. So, the assessment by GPL will serve as the groundwork towards building confidence in the local power supply.
Only in March, due to numerous power outages, Prime Minister Brigadier Mark Phillips convened a meeting among key stakeholders, and said that the company’s fault identification system will be upgraded.
“We are aware that GPL is doing some extensive repairs to the transmission and distribution system and that is the main reason for the outages,” the prime minister related.
He, however, lamented that the transmission and distribution system languished since it was not consistently maintained over the past five years.
In an invited comment on the sidelines of an event at Office of the President last week, President Ali said: “The last discussion we had with GPL is to come up with the gap in terms of what is needed for a stable, reliable supply, and that is what they are doing now and that evaluation will be done during the course of this week [last week].
“But we have to make investments as necessary, so that every citizen has an equal supply of power.”
It was reported recently that GPL’s system will be upgraded to bring much-needed relief to thousands of citizens, but this is not the only area through which the government is hoping to upgrade, in order to improve power generation and supply.
The 2021 National Budget contains allocations of $240 million for the Sustainable Energy Programme; $628.8 million for the Renewable Energy Improvement Power System Project; $750 million for the Energy Matrix Diversification Programme; $500 million for the Solar System Project; $125 million for the Small Hydro Projects; and an estimated $202.5 million has been allocated to hinterland electrification.
Additionally, an estimated total of $3.1 billion has been allocated to power companies across Guyana: $172.5 million for Lethem Power Company, $490 million for Kwakwani Utilities Inc., $2.3 billion for LINMINE, $30 million for Mabaruma Power Company, $50 million for Mahdia Power and Light, $10 million for Moruca Power and Light, $15 million for Matthew’s Ridge Power and Light and $50 million for Port Kaituma Power and Light.
Although the government’s plans for energy are clear, President Ali, in speaking further about the issues related to the supply of power, said: “What has happened is, when we came into government, we found this system that was minimally maintained and this has come to us now from various audits… the networks, transformers, circuits, tremendous difficulties, and we have been investing in correcting these difficulties. We’ve been investing in capital acquisitions for our power-generating capacity.”
In June, the construction of GPL’s new substation is expected to be completed, boosting the power supply of the Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS) by 46.5 Megawatts (MW).
The Power Producers and Distributors Incorporated (PPDI) is responsible for a total electrical output of 106.7 megawatts within the DBIS, sourcing from four power plants, namely Garden of Eden (22 MW), Kingston #1 (22MW), Kingston #2 (36.3 MW) and Vreed-en-Hoop (26.4 MW).
The additional 46.5 MW power supply will be generated by the five new US$41 million dual-fuel generating sets which arrived in Guyana on November 5, 2020.
“We have been providing funding [to GPL]… after that needs assessment, we will have an idea of the additional requirements, so that is what we are looking at,” President Ali said.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Phillips had said too: “Our government will now work assiduously to implement the necessary measures that will result in improved standard of living for our people through the generation and provision of sufficient, stable and reliable power.”
He had reiterated the government’s vision for the future of energy provision in Guyana, which includes the addition of over 400MW of newly installed capacity and a reduction in the cost of energy by at least 50 per cent through provisions from a mix of energy sources that include hydropower, natural gas, solar and wind.