Feb 02, 2014 News
…to install anti-theft meters
The state-owned power company may require a massive injection of US$100M to do additional upgrades to its distribution system, says Prime Minister Sam Hinds.
The Prime Minister, who has ministerial responsibilities for power, was yesterday following up on Wednesday’s appearance before a Parliamentary committee tasked with oversight of the natural resources sector.
Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) has been worrying both lawmakers and the administration. In recent years, there has been a significant demand for power, which GPL is hard-pressed to find. It is currently building a US$26M power plant at Vreed-en-Hoop and involved in a US$45M project to upgrade its transmission lines on the coasts. It also added another power plant at Kingston, Georgetown, but new housing schemes have been a major contributor to the growing demand for electricity.
Against this background, GPL’s aging transmission lines, circuits and feeders have come under scrutiny. Almost a third of the power produced is lost because of the transmission lines and transformers which are crying out to be changed.
In a letter to the editor yesterday, Prime Minister Hinds explained that feeders have a thermal limit, a load if exceeded, could fuse and start a fire. “Standard utility practice is to not load feeders beyond 40 per cent of their thermal limits – but with our nation’s limited money, most feeders were loaded way above the standard. Many feeders were at 80 to 100 per cent of their thermal limits.”
The result has been high technical losses, voltage levels out of range, and frequent trips to protect the feeder from even small surges.
“The nearly-completed GPL Transmission Upgrade programme, of about US$ 45 million, introducing, for the first time, sub-stations – seven at this time – at points in the network, will about halve the load on feeders, with consequential improvements in technical loss-reduction, greater conformity with the standard voltage levels, and reduced trips.”
But similar considerations apply to the secondary distribution circuits and feeders, and GPL Inc. is working at this, the Prime Minister assured. But these additional upgrades will by no means come cheap. As a matter of fact, the official warned, it could cost twice as much as the transmission upgrade – about US$100M.
Hinds also complained yesterday again of GPL’s battle to bring down electricity theft. About 16 per cent of what GPL produces is lost because of this. “The meter readings for over 55,000 of our 175,000 customers lead, astonishingly, to a billing of less than $2,300 per month, for electricity. Some are true, but a large number must be understated.”
A consideration of GPL’s billing suggests that one out of every five customers, through collusions with staffers and their own ingenuity, is getting away.
“As we reported, we have been putting in place meters and systems recommended by various consultants, to fight non-technical losses. Alas, as we also reported, many ways have been found to thwart our efforts, and we cannot avoid the conclusion that some number of current and past employees of GPL Inc., and other knowledgeable people, together with customers, have been directing their efforts towards manipulation of the system.”
GPL is now being urged to install 175,000 sophisticated smart meters, throughout the system, which continually “speak” to others in the vicinity, and to a control centre. ”These meters could be disconnected, and re-connected, from the centre. The utility can know, continuously, locations from where power is being taken, that is not being reflected in the local grouping of meters. This could cost the power company another US$75M.
The Prime Minister made it clear yesterday that to reduce electricity losses, there is need for significant material investments in the most robust and perceptive equipment and systems “and we need, no less,
that the overwhelming majority of us citizens of Guyana, all employees of GPL Inc., and customers, accept and insist that everyone pays for what he/she uses.”
GPL has four years to bring down its 31% technical and commercial losses to 19.5 per cent, Hinds disclosed.
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