By Pat Dial
The Guyana Consumers Association and the consumer community as a whole have always shown an interest and concern with any event or trend, which affect the Public Utilities. In Guyana, we are mainly concerned with three Public Utilities – Guyana Water Inc., which supplies water, Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Co. (GTT), which supplies telecommunication services, and the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL), which supplies electricity. The Water and Electricity Corporations are state-owned while GTT is owned by a small American company and has always been considered by the consumers as an exploitative monopoly.
In today’s offering, we will be focusing on the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL). The GPL is involved in three basic activities – the production of electricity, the transmission of such power and the distribution of such power but the equipment and technology used to perform these three basic activities are mostly old and outdated and this results in the frequent breakdowns and blackouts and this also causes cost of electricity to be among the highest in the world. Both the frequent breakdowns and the high cost of electricity militate against the growth of industry have inhibited investment in the country. Ordinary householders suffer loss when the contents of their refrigerators spoil or deteriorate with blackouts.
Any happening or circumstance, which may seem to bring some hope of betterment to GPL would therefore be welcomed by consumers. Such a happening is the Caribbean Electric Utility Services Corporation (CARILEC)’s Executive Officers and Leadership Symposium, which will take place in Guyana in May. This Conference would be hosted by GPL and the CARICOM Secretariat and would be one of the most important held here. Dr. Cletus Bertin, the Executive Director of CARILEC, paid his preliminary visit 7 or 8 weeks ago and was satisfied with arrangements. He held discussions with colleagues at GPL and even spoke with the media.
CARILEC consists of 104 members, which include 34 electric utilities that are full members and 70 affiliate or associate members. Others attending the conference will include general managers, chief financial officers, business executives, consultants, senior technical officers, vendors in the energy and electricity industries, international and regional organizations, development partners and government officials and policy makers. The Conference will be hosted at Marriott Hotel and Pegasus will accommodate the spill-over.
Executive Director Bertin gave the raison d’etre of the Conference and what benefits are expected to accrue to Guyana and other participating countries: In Dr Bertin’s words: “we’re going to get in some of the reasons why we have outages, load shedding and so on in the electricity sector in Guyana, that is GPL. That is why we have conferences for the sharing of best practices, new technologies, new techniques and having material assistance and collaboration”. Dr Bertin went on to explain how CARILEC operates: “GPL is a member and what we do for our members is industry training, conferences, advocacy and assistance programmes after disasters where utility members help each other out with restoration efforts. If there is something like an earthquake or a hurricane, we have a programme where we have a fund of about a million US dollars and that is used to help members in their recovery”.
Dr Bertin reminded that the electricity and energy industries often go hand in hand as one is needed to supply the other. Guyana has already become a place for various energy-related conferences as the country moves into being one of the most noteworthy oil-generating countries in the world. This trend is matched by the growing economic expansion where there is greater need for power.
Consumers are heartened and optimistic that the CARILEC conference in May would serve as a catalyst for modernizing GPL and this goal would become quickly realizable owing to the availability of oil revenues and eventually cheaper fuel as well.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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