GPL plans almost US$300 million investment but electricity theft major problem- CEO

Last Updated on Friday, 16 July 2021, 22:02 by Denis Chabrol

The Guyana Power and Light (GPL) plans to invest US$292 million in building a modern transmission and distribution system, and the company is banking on behavioural change to stop losing GYD$4 billion (US$18.6 billion) annually to electricity theft, Chief Executive Officer Bharat Dindyal said Friday.

“We have developed a masterplan for transmission and distribution,” he told a webinar organised by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on “Energy and Electricity: What we should all know? “.

He said the company has begun a search for a combination of grants from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), concessional and other loans to install the new system over the next five to eight years. “This calls for a complete rebuild of the existing network and while we are trying to rebuild the existing network, we have to continue to provide a service,” he said.

Although government has spent more than US$44 million on reducing technical and non-technical losses,  which includes a sturdy, high-tech metering system, he said residents in regularised and squatting areas are still stealing electricity. “They are choosing actually not to actually use the legal power but are continuing to source power directly without recourse the utility,” said the GPL CEO.

Mr. Dindyal said  five Latin American experts had come to Guyana to examine designs to reduce electricity theft, but at least one of the consultants had remarked that, “he has never seen a more determined group than Guyanese when it comes to stealing electricity.”

The power company chief said many of those areas are “overrun with illegal connections” that point to a social problem that requires behavioural challenge. “Investing in technology, in terms of network design, I don’t think will solve the problem. I think we have to win hearts and minds through social outreach,” he said.

With the coming on stream of cheaper electricity from the proposed US$900 million gas to power plant at Wales, West Bank Demerara, Mr. Dindyal hoped that lower tariffs would be an incentive for consumers to be legally connected to the power grid.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Energy Agency, Dr. Mahender Sharma said government intends to acquire 400 megawatts of new electricity generation capacity from natural gas, hydropower, solar and wind sources over the next five years. “No energy source will offer you a 100 percent of anything. Even fossil fuels present supply disruptions in different timelines,” he said.

GPL supplies 130 megawatts of electricity to 387,473 consumers  in mainly Bartica, Essequibo Coast, Demerara and Berbice.

n an effort to widen its Public Relations thrust, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Guyana launched the inaugural session of our monthly Webinar/Virtual Round Table series on June 11, 2021. These series  are geared at stimulating and generating conversations on a wide range of issues.