Kaieteur News – Former Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson has blamed the government’s mismanagement for the constant blackouts being experienced presently in Guyana.
He said the administration’s failure to put measures in place to match the country’s growth trajectory is responsible for the spate of power outages plaguing the nation. “The government has been opening malls, parks, hospitals and hotels to much fanfare since coming back into the office, claiming the same was the result of their policies. A primary school student would have known that if on one hand, you willingly add additional commercial entities to the grid, then you would need additional generating capacity,” the Member of Parliament (MP) reasoned.
He told this publication that government has failed to upgrade the power supply to accommodate the growing demand. Consequently, it has proven its inability to manage the power sector. “You are now threatening these companies with increased taxes for using the services that you signed them up for and even encouraged. This is the clearest sign that the PPP remain clueless, run the country like a cake shop and, when exposed, seek to blame others,” Patterson argued.
The former minister who was tasked with power generation between 2015 and 2020 said contrary to the President Irfaan Ali’s claim in a recent statement that the Coalition neglected the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc by failing to maintain the distribution network and add new capacity, the agency was resuscitated when the former government took office.
President Ali during a live broadcast on Facebook over the weekend said government was “dissatisfied” with the recent spells of blackouts, as he went on to explain the reason for the disturbance. He said, “We have a situation in the country where we are trying to catch up for years of neglect, five years of not investing in the maintenance of the system, expanding the system and at the same time, building additional capacity to take care of the increasing demand.”
With the country experiencing rapid growth, the Head-of-State noted that the demand for electricity now requires government to double the existing capacity. In fact, he said, “Our generating capacity needs to be more than doubled if we are to keep a pace with the type of development projections that we are seeing.” The President used the forgoing to qualify the need for the highly touted 300-megawatt (MW) Gas-to-Energy (GTE) project and the 165MW Amaila Falls Hydropower initiative.
The President said up to August 2020, GPL had a reliable capacity of 120 MW. The demand at that time he said was 115 MW, leaving little room for fluctuations. He said 10 MW of additional power was ordered in 2020 when the PPP took office. Simultaneously, he said there was a “massive investment” in the maintenance of the transmission and distribution system which was “completely neglected”, lending to power outages, breakage, blowing of transformers and other issues.
So far, President Ali said in three years, his administration has managed to restore two engines to full operation at Garden of Eden, East Bank Demerara and have embarked on the 300 MW GTE project and the transmission lines from Wales to Eccles to support the project.
He said two transmission lines – one 60 kilometers from Wales, West Bank Demerara to Vreed-en-Hoop, West Coast Demerara and a second line of 24 kilometers from Wales to Eccles, East Bank Demerara to feed the power into the systems are in the pipeline.
With government subsidizing the cost of electricity, the President noted that a number of large consumers have rejoined the national grid to save on electricity costs, thereby increasing the demand to 185 megawatts at peak demand daily. This, according to him, has resulted in the power outages during those periods. The President also said that the current capacity is below the peak demand by 10 MW.
In the meantime, the Head-of-State shared that government has invested to have another almost 30 MW of additional power available by mid-December to cater to the peak demand and avoid outages. In the interim he said government is encouraging high volume consumers to utilize their self-generation between 1-3pm and 6-10pm to avoid outages to residents across the country.
Meanwhile, Patterson told Kaieteur News that it was disingenuous for the President to make such accusations. In fact, he said that when the Coalition assumed government in 2015, GPL was on “life support” despite taking an average loan of US$22M annually.
According to him, “In five years under the coalition administration, nine new generating sets totaling 63MW were purchased (Anna Regina – 5.4MW, Bartica – 3.4MW, Bellevue – 1.5MW, Canefield – 5.5MW and Garden of Eden (five sets) – 46.5MW). In 2015 the generating capacity of GPL was listed at 120 – 125MW, which means that in five short years, the coalition’s work increased the generating capacity of the company by 50%. Never in the history of the company has it enjoyed such a huge increase in generating capacity in such a short period.”
Patterson was keen to note that the increase in generation capacity was financed without any external loans. Meanwhile, he pointed out that “Under the PPP between 2007 and 2014, US$155M in loans were taken on behalf of GPL…on average, US$22M per year in loans was given to GPL during this period, yet our power sector was on life support in 2015.”
He added that not only was GPL able to increase their generating capacity by 50 percent in five years, but they started repaying the interest on these loans.
Flash forward to 2023, the former Minister believes the sector is being mismanaged, resulting in a dysfunctional infrastructure. Patterson explained that during the Coalition’s tenure, the administration sourced dual fuel systems capable of operating on Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) and natural gas to cater to future developments.
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