Two weeks after going down, a critical submarine cable that links the city with West Demerara is still to be repaired. Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) is now reportedly seeking foreign assistance to make it operational again.
The Chinese-built cable is crucial as part of the system that connects the Berbice and Demerara grid.
It means now that the more than US$30M new power facility at Vreed-en-Hoop, West Demerara will be unable to lend its excess power to the other side of the river, a worry at this time when GPL is depending on those extras to ensure that there is no shortfall.
It is estimated that millions of dollars in excess power is lost from the generation by the Vreed-en-Hoop station because of the downed cable.
GPL has been under pressure to reduce its outages with some of them coming at embarrassing times.
Guyana first learnt of a problem with the submarine cable on July 13 when GPL disclosed in a statement that on the previous evening the Demerara Berbice Interconnected System experienced a shutdown as a result of a faulty connection or “Pot Head” that links the 69KV submarine cable to the overhead transmission lines at Kingston.
While power was restored, the link remained down. GPL said that “every effort” is being made to restore the submarine cable link between the Vreed-en-Hoop station.
Since then, there has been no other word from GPL on the repairs to the cable.
The submarine cable was part of a larger infrastructural work by GPL to improve its efficiency. It included also the building of seven sub-stations and stringing of miles of new transmission lines with fiber optic across the coastlands.
The entire US$40M-plus project was handled by China National Machinery Import & Export Corporation (CMC), a Chinese company which is now planning to participate in a number of other ones.
Yesterday, GPL officials confirmed that indeed there is no power on the submarine cable and that likely an overseas firm will have to be engaged.
There have been questions from other stakeholders about the integrity of the cable laid by CMC.
It was supposed to be buried at least three meters and protected to avoid the vessels that ply the Demerara River. There has also been worry about the quality of the submarine cable.
GPL has reportedly withheld over US$4M from CMC for the substation project and it is from this that the state-owned company will fund the repairs to the submarine cable.
GPL came under scrutiny last week again after Minister of State Joseph Harmon in responding to media questions said that he is of the view that a contractor’s track record must be an important consideration when evaluations are done.
CMC’s handling of the sub-stations and transmission lines project had been cited.
The contractor wants to work on another major GPL project- this time a $3.8 B (US$18.6M) for meters and for more transmissions lines.
Harmon said that anyone can submit a bid, but it is up to the evaluators to ensure that contractors with bad track records do not get the contract. He noted that when the documents come to Cabinet, it is for Cabinet to either object or give its no objection to the contract.
“Performance at previous contracts must be a factor to be taken into consideration. At the level of evaluation, it then goes to National Procurement and Tender Administration Board where another level of evaluation takes place. And they will scrutinize the contract.”
Back in May, it had been reported that bids were being assessed for a contract to install a medium and low voltage distribution network, as well as smart meters in order to upgrade GPL’s services.
The system GPL currently uses has been deemed unreliable. In addition, an upgrade was necessary before any plans for hydropower could come on stream.
CMC was one of five companies which submitted bids, but the company was already harshly evaluated by consultants for an $8.4B (US$42M) it undertook to build transmission lines and seven substations.
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