– GPL new Chief unveils short-term plans to keep lights on
Government has announced aggressive plans to pull out all stops to reduce the shutdowns of the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL) with a number of priority projects targeted to “keep the lights on”.
The disclosures were made Wednesday evening when GPL and the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) introduced the newly hired Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Jamaica-born, Albert Gordon.
Since taking office earlier this year, it would be the first time that the official, now in one of the hottest seats in Guyana, would be facing the press. The event took place at the Pegasus Hotel, Kingston.
According to Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson, who also addressed the media workers and GPL executives, the challenges are significant for the state-owned company.
Gordon, who has successfully worked in Jamaica’s electricity and water companies, before playing a key role in the regulating the utilities in that Caribbean nation, was said to have managed to bring the companies out of the doldrums of the 1990’s when that country was facing problems.
So far, Gordon, who was selected from a number of candidates, has “lived up to expectations” with the initial tasks he was handed, the Minister said.
Within two weeks, a new board for the power company is to be named, Patterson disclosed.
The new CEO comes at a time when there has been a number of shutdowns of the interconnected power system in the Berbice and Demerara area, with Essequibo coast, Region Two, and Bartica, Region Seven, also complaining bitterly.
Admitting that Gordon’s hiring had sent tongues wagging as he would be the first non-Guyanese to that top post, the Minister made it clear that Guyana is in a global community now with the best person needed for the tough job ahead.
And indeed, it would be tough.
According to Gordon, his first few days on the job were greeted by total shutdowns.
One shutdown is worrying, much less the 25 that were recorded last year by GPL.
The realities for Guyana are deeply challenging, the new CEO said.
The current infrastructure of GPL has been built over time from smaller ones, which have severe chinks in the armour. To fix the myriad problems, a short-term investment of around US$110M would be needed to fix a number of priority areas.
Already, the Public Infrastructure Ministry has submitted proposals to the Ministry of Finance, asking for financing.
Finance Minister Winston Jordan was in Washington this week to explore a number of financing options with the multilateral agencies.
Gordon pointed out that the distribution system has no fail-safe, with the generators not shielded if there are problems.
Another major problem leaving GPL skating on thin ice is the lack of reserve power or redundancy, in case of generators going down. The first priority would be to keep the power on.
Action will also be taken to reduce GPL’s massive technical and commercial losses (theft) which amount to almost 30 percent. This meant that fuel is being burned and consumers are being made to pay for the losses. It is the intention to bring this down by at least two percent within a year with a number of interventions.
According to Gordon, about 50 of the 130 megawatts being generated are from old engines that need to be replaced. GPL is also faced with very little reserves in case of generator failures.
The official made it clear that he has been given clear instructions for the future of GPL, which has to be in tandem with Guyana’s sustainable development pathway.
With strict international standards to be adhered to, it is the intention to move GPL rapidly to a world-class facility, which also involves raising the bar on staff training and customer service.
Gordon was also convinced that Guyana has about 7,000 megawatts of hydroelectric potential, with GPL endorsing and encouraging any renewable power, including wind and biomass.
Other initiatives in the short term will include tackling the replacement of old power poles and clearing of vegetation around them.
Meanwhile, Minister Patterson, also spoke on the issue of natural gas.
The discovery of oil in ExxonMobil’s concessions offshore Guyana has brought the possibilities of natural gas being used for generating power in Guyana. However, the problem is getting the gas piped from the well areas located about 100 miles from the shore.
According to Patterson, a site has been identified, but the necessary technical studies will have to be conducted. Already talks are ongoing with ExxonMobil. The feasibility of using natural gas is very high with the cost of 10 cents. Already, GPL has advertised for Expressions of Interest for construction of a 50 megawatts natural gas plant to produce power.
The new CEO said that tender documents would be ready shortly which would fast track the process to actual construction. He also disclosed that GPL is ready to accommodate private producers and to bring a number of companies who are self-producing back to the power company.
The aggressive posture of GPL would be welcome, as the private sector had been piling the pressure on the company to reduce outages and maintain reliability.
Consecutive governments have been at a loss to stem the outages, despite huge sums being expended on smart meters and new transmission lines and sub-stations.
Government has been exploring the possibilities of using wind power, with a proposal made for the construction of one at Hope Beach, East Coast Demerara.
A major hydro project at Amaila Falls was placed on hold by the administration because of costs –almost US$1B – that the country would have been saddled with.
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