Since obtaining independence from Britain in May 1966, Guyana has been plagued by power outages but not as frequent as in the last two decades. It was more sporadic then, today, it is wide-spread. Outages may last from a few minutes to a few days, depending on the location and the nature of the blackout.In the urban areas, blackouts tend to be of a shorter duration, whereas in the rural areas, it can be much longer.
Power failures are particularly critical for the environment. It puts public safety at risk. Institutions such as hospitals, sewage treatment plants, mines and the like will usually have backup power sources such as standby generators, which will automatically start up when electrical power is lost. Other critical systems, such as telecommunications networks and other public utilities also have emergency power systems.
A power outage, also called a power blackout, power failure or a “blackout” as most Guyanese would say, is a short-term or a long-term loss of the electrical power to a particular area. While there are many causes of power failures which range from faults at power stations to damage to electrical transmission lines and substations, to a short circuit or overloading of the system, it is clear that the people are fed-up with the interruptions in their daily lives and the poor quality of service from Guyana Power and Light (GPL).
Despite the promises by governments (including this one) to solve the problem, the intensity of blackouts have increased throughout the country. In fact, there has been little change under this government, which had promised the people that by the end of 2016 there would be greater stability in GPL’s service. This has not been the case so far, as the first quarter of 2017 saw a marked deterioration of service. In the eyes of many, GPL remains a very troubled organization. Such shabby power service could deter investors from considering Guyana as an investment destination.
Our leaders are in denial of the tremendous psychological effects and actual burden of blackouts on the citizens. The nation has become battle-weary that there is no relief in sight from the decades-old trauma of power failures. And despite years of promises, underpinned by huge international loans and financial aid from several countries, successive governments and their managers at GPL have failed to deliver. This no doubt has been very distressing to the consumers.
Blackouts have become so much a part of life in Guyana that citizens are often hard pressed to remember a time when there were no power outages. For them, blackouts are here to stay. This is an indictment on previous governments and those now in authority. However, it is obvious that there is increased demand for electricity in the country due to the erection of new housing schemes, which means that more energy has to be generated to satisfy the demand. Even though the situation today is much more improved than what had existed years ago, there has not been a solution. With added power generation capacity over the years, neither GPL nor the government has reached the stage where they can say with certainty that there will be no more power blackouts.
The problems facing GPL have been known for decades, including theft of electricity and line losses, but its short-lived life under private management and its name change have not made much difference. It is still unable to prevent blackouts and generate enough electricity of a decent quality to supply the needs of the people. The crux of the problem seems to be either gross incompetence by the authorities or the lack of political will to solve the problem. That is exactly what consumers have complained about ad nauseam. It is disgraceful that in 2017, the citizens are still faced with unexplained blackouts and voltage surges that have damaged equipment and cause fires. This is compounded by the arrogance of being told that they have to live with blackouts until a solution is found.
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