Jan 30, 2010 News
– plans installation of 12,000 new meters in 2010
By Leonard Gildarie
Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) has rolled an ambitious plan this year to change the face of its image even as the crippling blackout woes of last year become a thing of the past. However, the government-owned entity says that one of the most severe challenges it is still facing is how to reduce losses that are taking a huge chunk from its revenues.
Early estimates of last year’s performance revealed that one-third of GPL’s production is lost primarily to theft.
The revelations were made Thursday evening when GPL hosted a media dinner at New Thriving, Main Street, to outline its plans for this year. Making the point was Chief Executive Officer, Bharat Dindyal.
Dindyal said that the very nature of the industry makes it imperative that short and medium planning is done to ensure continued growth.
With the generation problems of last year solved, critical areas of transmission and distribution capacity; customer service and the public relations image are all set for major overhaul this year. With the recent commissioning of three Wartsila engines late last year to add a further 20 megawatts, GPL currently is producing over 80 megawatts and it is expected to further boost this with an extra 10 megawatts shortly and two engines will return to service.
As a result, the GPL focus is on improving other aspects, the CEO said.
This year, a US$40M Chinese funded project will see 120 kilometers of 69KV lines being installed and seven state-of-the-art sub-stations erected. Two old sub-stations are also earmarked for rehabilitation and a new control system at Sophia will be installed with capabilities to manage distribution in the Demerara and Berbice areas.
According to Dindyal, while it is the feeling that some of the major projects of the company should have been done 30 years ago, the reality is that many of the problems plaguing Guyanese as far as electricity goes are now being fixed.
Acknowledging that the criticisms were very much evident as GPL struggled to tackle the problems, he said that there is still a long way to go.
In addition to a new control system that will utilise a fibre optic cable stretching from Skeldon, Berbice to Edinburgh, Essequibo to Garden of Eden in Demerara, GPL, this year, will be introducing a new customer information service system that will among other things, allow customers to go online to check on information.
While last year a plan to introduce prepaid meters met with little enthusiasm from customers with only 49 of these being installed, 2010 will see an aggressive move to market and educate citizens on the benefits which include significant savings in consumption and conservations.
Already, 1,000 prepaid meters have been ordered from South Africa. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is in the process of procuring 5,600 more. GPL will be looking to buy another 6,000 units this year also, the CEO disclosed.
Stressing that the company is on the threshold of major development, Dindyal also announced that the current problems of customers and the staffers are also being addressed with a number of new initiatives.
These include the hiring of part-time customer representatives who will work directly to solve ongoing issues like the queries of wrong meter reading and late payments now appearing on current bills.
These agents can work at their own time and even visit customers in the evening to find out why a bill is not paid.
Signaling a stance of that, GPL would prefer not to disconnect as part of an enhanced customer relations strategy, the CEO also disclosed that it will be working closely with ministries to ensure that homes are connected as there is still a huge number of persons who are not taking up new services despite the facilities already in place.
Another initiative that GPL is considering is commissioning for persons who manage to bring in new customers for the pre-paid meters. This year, GPL is hoping to install 12,000 new meters. Meanwhile, GPL’s Deputy CEO, Aeshwar Deonarine, emphasised that the company is working to ensure a desirable situation where a customer can pick up the phone, call GPL and have it answered promptly and queries looked into right away.
While admitting that the new customer system will not solve all the problems associated with billing, it will address in a major way the current glitches bugging GPL.
Like Dindyal, he stressed that the company views disconnection as an absolute last resort.
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