Will we ever reach a point where there are no blackouts?

Dear Editor,

Periods of long blackouts seem to be happening several times per year now. More and more problems seem to be developing every couple of months on the company’s fleet of aging diesel generators located countrywide. Lethem, West Demerara, Linden, Georgetown and Berbice – areas which solely depend on diesel generators for the supply of electric current – have all been affected in the past by electricity woes and numerous blackouts. Most recently, West Demerara suffered such fate and is reportedly now out of the woods. That dark cloud has since left West Demerara for Berbice as Berbicians are again suffering from numerous power failures every single day and night.

Let us examine the above situation in a sober manner. Given the high dependency on these diesel engines and their failings in the past, it is therefore essential for us to examine other scenarios to provide the nation with electricity. The government keeps bringing the hydro-electric dream to the foreground, but obviously that will be a very costly venture and it will take a very long time to complete, given the remote area in which it is to be constructed. A hydro system in Guyana’s interior is not an easy construction feat to accomplish. I am not negative about this project, nor am I skeptical that it can happen, however, one has to take into account weather, location, finance, housing, ecology, among other factors very carefully. Do Guyanese have the patience to wait for all of this to happen? I’m not sure I can. At least I would like to see reliable electricity a reality before I die.

Obviously, other forms of generating current for a nation that is becoming extremely gluttonous for electric power on a daily basis, would hinge on sharp, resourceful and logical thinking. GPL can attest to the fact from its figures that daytime and nighttime demand for power is bridging a gap which sometimes used to be from up to ten megawatts. Yes, we are in a heatwave but generally, Guyana is very hot during the day and this opens the way for more appliances such as fans and air-conditioners being used. More businesses and housing schemes are being established. More electricity-consuming appliances are being sold every day. The mega- generators at GPL’s power stations are feeling the added burden of sending more megawatts of electricity over the years and thus have become exhausted and overworked. To cater for the added demands countrywide, especially in heavily populated areas, the company, under pressure from its customers, like me, who regularly keep them honest through my letters, are then forced to push these machines to extreme limits, doing more harm than good. That combined with the aging factor presents a sorry state of this company which is already under monetary burdens through electricity theft and other financial losses. Still, government steps in ever so regularly to purchase or rent generators from overseas to push power during Christmas holidays and other demanding times of the year. That is not the answer to the problems.

GPL has not budged its rates even though oil prices have plummeted over the past years and many of the company’s generating fleet has or will be utilizing the cheaper Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) in the near future. Cheap power may never be realized in Guyana. And that alone is a stumbling stone to the aspect of development resulting from the establishment of production industries nationwide. Products and services will continue to be on the rise. In Trinidad, cheap power is evident in the number of industries on the island. On the lighter side, even the smallest dilapidated home has an air-conditioner or several of them attached to counter the hot days and nights experienced there.

It is also evident that GPL has sought to quickly complete the laying of the 69KV line through Kingston in Georgetown to benefit the people in the city while the 69KV link from Skeldon to #53 Village (which will provide more current from Skeldon to the region) has been moving at a snail’s pace. If I am wrong, then could GPL update us on the Corentyne link? Also, how long would the modern Kingston Power Station with its spanking new generators keep Georgetown and its environs blackout free? Surely, that project was not the answer that Georgetown needed to keep lights on and appliances running. Yes, maybe initially, but as usual, even with a modern power station there are limitations.

We aim and strive for development. Governments have come and gone over the years since our independence. They have built and maintained; collected and spent; told lies and truths; been corrupt and honest; it’s the story of our lives. Not one of those governments has been able to alleviate the curse of blackouts upon our nation. Not one of them has been able to sensibly, thoughtfully and prudently solve the power woes. Notwithstanding this, they are still convinced that development is taking place. Yes, I agree it is. However, when you live in areas or pass through towns and villages in blackout especially during the night, and listen to the sounds of a number of standby generators; and there are hot, sticky days and boredom among families, I don’t know about you, but that surely doesn’t look or sound like development to me.

There have been thirteen blackouts in the past week or so and if GPL keeps up their shenanigans in Berbice, we should be experiencing our two hundredth blackout very soon.

A manifesto by GPL for the coming years is not all. GPL’s main purpose is to provide uninterrupted, stable electricity. They have failed the nation in that regard just as their predecessor the Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC) did. There are line maintenance activities on all sorts of days (even Sunday), the maintenance of the generation fleet at the various stations, and machine failures. Huge load-shedding guides in the newspapers and on TV are what Guyanese have become accustomed to in decades past. Neither we nor our children or their children’s children may ever live in a time where blackouts are no more.

Yours faithfully,
Leon Jameson Suseran

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