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Despite constraints, criticisms GPL is going places – CEO

A section of the audience at GPL’s public forum.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Incorporated, Bharrat Dindyal said that there is a technological solution to the problem of loss reduction, but it requires an investment of tens of millions of US dollars. He was at the time speaking at a public forum, hosted by the power company on Friday at Duke Lodge, Kingston.

From 1992-1997, all focus of the then Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC) was on improving generation, and when GPL came in being in October 1999, there was a total of 49 megawatts of capacity in the Demerara system.

Dindyal explained there was no way GPL could have survived beyond 2007 if there was no additional generating capacity. The company was forced to service and make use of old equipment that should have been decommissioned. The electricity system operated this way until 2009 when the first 20 megawatts of new capacity came on stream.

“What has happened since 1993 is that we continued to focus on generation…some of the facilities that we are now building were on the cards since the 1970s,” the CEO stated.

Referring to the massive Infrastructural Development Programme (IDP), which the company has embarked on, he said that this is the first major investment in technical loss reduction in the power company’s history.

He reminded that in the business of electricity, nothing is fixed, simply because as the company’s generation capacity increases, so does the demand for it. Over recent years, the country has witnessed an unprecedented boom in the construction industry. There has resulted in more housing areas to be serviced.

Dindyal reminded too that the new projects that are now being implemented cannot and should not be seen as the panacea for the electricity woes, as the situation will continue to change as the country develops and more and more investments will be required.

Already, GPL is working on another five-year development and expansion programme, which will take into consideration the trends in demand increases.

“Right now we are playing catch-up, it is very easy to criticise GPL…when that 26 megawatt plant is commissioned early next year and when the other projects that the Chinese are constructing are completed; we would have an excellent foundation on which to move the company forward,” Dindyal said.

The new 26 megawatts power plant is being constructed at Vreed-en-Hoop, West Bank Demerara. The project is being constructed under a turnkey contract with Wartsila Finland. GPL is only responsible for the site preparation.

The contract for this foundation work was awarded in December 2012 following a transparent bidding process; however that contractor subsequently declined to continue and the contract was given to the next competitive bidder, the Correia and Correia Company Ltd.

The CEO maintained that even though GPL faces a lot of constraints in terms of financing, technical and commercial losses and fuel prices, the company is going places; a lot of developments are underway that will lead of drastic improvements in service delivery.

Responding to a question from the audience with regards to the inadequate public lighting in and around the City of Georgetown, Dindyal informed that GPL is not responsible for street lights and other public lighting, as this responsibility falls squarely on the Mayor and City Council (M&CC). The Council currently owes GPL approximately $1B, most of which is for public lighting. The power company had initially presented a proposal to the City Council for the adoption of a more energy-efficient system where public lighting is concerned.

This project would have accrued significant savings for the City Hall; however, while the proposal was accepted, it was never implemented. As it stands, there are about 1,700 illegal lamps in Georgetown and over 6,000 countrywide. Additionally, a public lighting policy is currently being looked at, which would clearly identify GPL’s role.

Several presentations were also made by senior officials from the company on current projects, operations, customer service, loss reduction and financing.

The main ongoing projects include: the IDP, the Frequency Conversion Project, and the 26 megawatt Heavy Fuel Oil plant.

The IDP entails the installation of 96 kilometres of 69KV transmission cables, the construction of seven new substations, as well as the upgrade of three existing substations. The substations allow for the step down of electricity from the 69,000 volts to 13,000 volts at the various points.

The overall programme is slated to be completed at the end of this year. A US$40M concessionary loan through the China Exim Bank is catering for GPL’s transformation. This project is scheduled for completion by December.

Meanwhile, physical works for the frequency conversion project commenced on February 4, and when completed, this project will significantly reduce technical losses that are caused by the old converters.

With regards to expanding its services, GPL has provided electricity to 14 new areas in 2012 and four thus far for 2013. This is being done through close collaboration with the Housing Ministry’s Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA).

The $5.2B subsidy removal from the 2013 national budget and the subsequent stalling of the controversial Amaila Falls Hydro Power project were also lamented at the forum by both the management of GPL as well as those in attendance.

Dindyal said that despite the uncertainty that looms over the Amaila project, discussions are being held on alternatives such as biomass cogeneration, harnessing wind energy and the use of photovoltaic systems.