Guyana Power and Light must be the only monopoly in Guyana if one were to ignore Guyana Water Inc. We are aware that the former President Bharrat Jagdeo said that he wanted to do away with monopolies. The result is that he targeted Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company. At no time did he think about dismantling GPL with the result that the power company is doing pretty much as it pleases.
After spending millions of dollars on equipment and promising an end to blackouts, the company not only failed to live up to the promise but also handed the nation blackouts at the most inappropriate times. Indeed, blackouts are not as prolonged as they once were when the system all but collapsed. However, after replacing almost all of the turbines with brand new engines one would have expected little or none.
Instead, there is entire systems’ collapse; problems with power disruptions along transmission lines and problems that would be unheard of in other countries as happened when there was the problem with contaminated fuel.
For as long as the power company has been in existence, there was the complaint that line losses were in the vicinity of forty per cent. And those commercial losses were also high. Line losses involve power loss during transmission. In any service there is bound to be line loss. For this reason, there are repeater stations and transformers along the distribution system.
For example, most of the power is lost along the transmission line linking Garden of Eden to Sophia. The line traverses dense vegetation and from time to time trees would fall on the power line. Sometimes, vines grow along these lines, affecting power flow. These need to be cleared often but GPL, in its drive to cut costs, has not placed emphasis on maintenance crews patrolling the transmission lines.
Commercial losses, on the other hand, accrue to the large number of people who steal power. There is also some commercial loss whenever power poles come down. Given the culture of disrespect for regulations, we in Guyana always have someone crashing into a power pole and walking away with only the expense to repair the damaged vehicle.
Recently, a letter writer noted that there was corruption within the power company as there is in every part of the society. He found out that people, who stole electricity, when caught, were allowed to escape by paying some money to the official. The official would then arrange for an illegal connection complete with meter.
This must have been so rampant that the official is wealthy beyond his imagination. If one were to multiply this scenario a couple hundred times one would find that the power company would not have racked up the kind of losses that it reported. There would not have been the need to seek to hike power tariffs by almost twenty per cent.
GPL, under the ownership of ESBI, had promised to lower the commercial and line losses by twenty per cent in five years. That was almost a decade ago. At the same time the power company announced that legitimate users were paying for those losses. The reality is that the power company is asking the paying public to shoulder more of the burden.
What is worse is that the pay packet has not risen by that amount so there is a greater pressure burned on the people. When this issue arose the spin doctors for the power company held up the rates and tried to make comparisons with the rest of the world. They did not take pay into consideration.
They then explained that with its land mass the power company was finding it difficult to take power countrywide and still maintain the cheap rate. The truth is that there is a lot of waste and the people are being asked to pay for that.
There must be a studied effort to guarantee power at an affordable cost. There is now a multi-billion-dollar programme to introduce fibre optic cables. This may reduce line losses but the cost to the consumer is almost unbelievable.
If indeed this is a promotion for hydro-electricity then before long people are going to welcome hydro power but the reality is that they have another five years to wait. More people will be stealing power and the paying public will be asked to pay more.
The solution rests in tightening up on corruption-$4 billion worth of corruption per annum.
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