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Govt wants to buy power for national grid

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 August 2020, 13:58 by Denis Chabrol

by Samuel Sukhnandan

In light of the recent blackouts , the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL), through the Ministry of Public Works will be moving to put out an Expression of Interest (EOI) to source additional power to add to the national electricity grid.

Junior Minister of Public Works Mr. Deodat Indar made this announcement on Tuesday following a meeting between officials of the state-owned power company, his ministry and Prime Minister Mr. Mark Phillips.

The Minister told the press that GPL’s current output is 120 megawatts of electricity, which is not adequate especially during peak hours.

“That (additional power) will add to the current output…but if any generator within that entire substation set that is on the DBIS (Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System) goes out and it falls under 120 megawatts, you will have blackouts,” Mr. Indar explained. Latest available figures show that the peak demand is 126.4 megawatts.

According to him, this is mainly so because the demand and the output are relatively the same. “Anything that happens down there in terms of mechanical failure or any of the generators tripping, you will have blackout because there is no backup capacity and that is why we need to add to the grid,” he said.

In the interim, GPL is working to restore some of the old systems that have been damaged or are in need of repair. Minister Indar said a seven megawatt engine has already been added to the grid and another five megawatts will be put on the system within the next 16-20 days.

Mr. Indar says that GPL has a relatively solid plan, but noted that the implementation, timing and funding have to be examined

“GPL and the capital programme for adding the generating capacity system was neglected for five years. Only three Caterpillar systems were added to the system in five years, aside from the 46.5 megawatts of power being done for April 2021…”We must understand as a people and a country what we have, what we inherited and how we need to go forward,” the minister remarked.

Meanwhile, GPL’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Mr. Albert Gordon said while his company is open to having companies with renewable energy on board, the focus would be to have “firm capacity” especially for the peak hours.

Mr. Gordon said there have been three shutdowns for this year, two of which were caused by accident by contractors and the other due to a mini storm a few days ago.

“There is also fault on the submarine cable and weakness in the transmission system. And until we fix those, we will get these incidents. Once we fix the transmission, we will get improved capacity…The old units are beginning to fail because we have been pushing them.”

He rejected claims that the recent blackouts were as a result of sabotage, declaring that many of the units are very old. “We have no evidence of sabotage and we are always vigilant to ensure security of our systems,” he added.

The GPL CEO anticipates that the demand for power will grow “very rapidly” as the economy reopens and with the expansion of the local oil and gas sector. He therefore acknowledged that GPL would need to stay ahead of that demand.

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