More GPL engines down for maintenance
… as blackouts hit hard
By Leonard Gildarie
Escalating fuel prices, a rising demand for more power and an urgent need to service a number of engines are issues seriously challenging the state-owned Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL).
Government has announced that it will be renting six Caterpillar generating sets to boost capacity by nine megawatts, until August, when a 15.6 mw Wartsila plant at Kingston is expected to come on stream.
This year, GPL is also expecting to spend $6B more than 2010 on fuel, to take the country’s bill to a hefty $22B.
Over the past weeks, consumers mainly in the Demerara inter-connected system have been facing hours of daily outages, as GPL took two Wartsila sets out of operation to conduct critical maintenance.
On Wednesday, Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, announced that Government has taken a decision to rent the six Caterpillar generators, while admitting that the current blackouts are worrying.
“Cabinet considered interventions and of course the permanent solution is the Amaila Falls hydropower. However, in the period from today to the achievement of electricity generation from Amaila, some interventions have additionally been made,” he said.
Chief Executive Officer of GPL, Bharat Dindyal, on Wednesday made it clear that the current maintenance programme is critical and will have to continue.
On May 20, another engine at the Wartsila, Garden of Eden plant, will have to be taken down to carry out a mandatory 60,000 hours service and maintenance to a major alternator.
After that, crews will have to pull out of operation another 6.9 mw engine at Kingston while work is still pending to replace the radiators at the 50 hertz plant there. “But we can’t do that (the 50 hertz plant) until after the 15.6 mw is installed (in August).”
According to the GPL boss, because of the generation shortfall being blamed on the current maintenance, it was decided to “rush” in the six Caterpillar sets.
Questioned about promises that GPL would have made in December 2009 that blackouts would have been a “thing of the past”, Dindyal denied that this was said. What was actually said was that the generation issue would be reduced, he added.
Last year, GPL saw demand spiking by 6.8 per cent because of a growth in economic activity and more household appliances coming into use.
While GPL would have catered for 500 new applications each month in 2011, the reality is that this has doubled to 1,000, Dindyal disclosed.
“So the forecast based on historical trends is very conservative when you look at the actual reality.”
This year also, GPL would have budgeted US$83 for a barrel of heavy fuel oil (HFO) but prices have now moved past US$113. The cost is excluding freight.
For the power company, every US$1 spent extra on oil translates to over US$1M annually.
Questioned about the possibility of GPL reducing tariffs now that there are more consumers, Dindyal was blunt. Already the power company is hard pressed with the rising fuel.
The only way that a tariff decrease could be possible now is for a dramatic reduction in fuel costs and a reduction in losses.
The long term answer, both Dindyal and Luncheon said, will be the Amaila Falls Hydro Project.