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Mahdia getting limited electricity; gov’t owes unprofitable power company

The gold mining settlement of Mahdia continues to be plagued by 12 hours of blackout because the Mahdia Power and Light (MPL) is unprofitable and government has refused to pay its bills for the year, according to well-placed sources.

While Junior Local Government Minister, Norman Whittaker on Thursday suggested that consumers should be asked to pay more or await a possible government subsidy when the parliamentary recess ends in October, an MPC official ruled out higher tariffs because consumers there were already paying the highest rate in the country – GUY$100 per kilowatt hour.

The official said government has not paid for electricity being supplied to 63 buildings for the year because installed meters show that that the MPC had been overpaid last year based on estimated bills. Sources said government buildings consume at least GUY$1.3 million monthly which means that MPL is owed more than GUY$11 million for the year.

For his part, Whittaker said government up to December 31, 2012 paid GUY$12 million for electricity supply to government buildings as an advance because “the amount for which were indebted was far less than that.”

Officials knowledgeable about the MPL’s operations say that given the regular domestic and business base of 480 customers, only 24 percent of the 680 KVA generating capacity was being used. That generator consumes six barrels of fuel in 24 hours. Similarly, in the case of the 380 KVA generator, only 44 percent peak capacity is being utilized when the generator runs 24 hours and consumes five barrels of fuel.

“None of them we aren’t getting the best out of them. Even the small one is too big for the area,” the official said. “I would recommend a slightly smaller one.”

With most of the customers burning between zero and GUY$800 monthly, experts say MPL should consider installing even smaller generators to match the demand.

The company buys 100 barrels of fuel at almost GUY$4 million duty free from GuyOil plus spends another GUY$400,000 for transporting it from Georgetown to Mahdia. Although the company is expected to earn GUY$5.2 million, there are still other expenses such as labour, maintenance, transmission and distribution and general supplies.

“We are really in serious cash flow problems without the money from the Region (Potaro-Siparuni),” the official said.

Repeated calls to the mobile phone of Regional Executive Officer, Ronald Harsawack went unanswered.

Junior Local Government Minister acknowledged that the revenue was inadequate to operate the generators for more than 12 hours. He said the MPC was in a GUY$9 million deficit because it has been crediting fuel.

Whittaker said a GUY$15 million subsidy has been used to conduct repairs and service some of the debt.

Whittaker said the key was to reduce operational costs, ask consumers to pay higher tariffs or await another government subsidy. “I spoke with the REO today (Thursday) and we discussed perhaps the Board can engage the consumers of the service primarily the commercial sector to see if they were disposed to paying a little something more,” he said.

The Alliance For Change (AFC), which controls the majority of seats on the Regional Democratic Council, has accused central government of deliberately withholding funds for MPL. “It is clear that the withholding of the subvention is designed to punish the people of Mahdia whose vote at the 2011 Regional and General Elections contributed to the PPPC loosing its majority in the National Assembly,” said the party.

The AFC lamented that The rationing of electricity was creating severe hardships for the residents as housewives cannot store meat, fish and other produce that require refrigeration. Students are also affected for while they endure the hardship of completing their studies and home-assignments by candlelight, they cannot use computers and access the internet to do research.