Having a reliable and stable supply of electricity in Guyana has become a pipe dream. Citizens who have not done so as yet, need to come to terms with the fact that just as they eventually had to invest in black tanks and pumps to ensure they received water in their homes, all Guyanese will also have to invest in generators, solar systems or windmills if they want to have a safe and uninterrupted supply of power or back-up power for when the outages occur. It is obvious that they will continue to occur for the foreseeable future. It is also obvious that at times there will be explanations or excuses for the outages while at other times the Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) will not deign to say anything. Perhaps it does not need to; people ought to have grasped by now that blackouts are a fact of life here.
After what appeared to be a major crisis in the electricity supply sector last year, GPL commissioned its new US$27.5 million power station at Kingston last December. The new plant, it was said, would add 20.7 megawatts of power to the generating capacity boosting it to 83 megawatts, some 5 megawatts more than the anticipated Christmas demand, which is usually the highest for the year. Understandably so; it’s the time when people tend to purchase and use more electrical appliances and there are the Christmas trees and lights and whatnot.
Well Christmas ended some 5 months ago almost, and while the power situation during that festive season was near perfect, it soon began slipping again. And over the past few weeks, several areas have had sudden, unexplained power outages and periods of low and high voltage.
Earlier this week, some areas along the East Bank Demerara were plagued with the dreaded blackouts. They began on Sunday afternoon and continued until Monday afternoon making it virtually impossible for some parents to prepare their children for school and for some of them to adequately get themselves ready for the working week. GPL apologized for the outage, explaining that it was the result of a thunderstorm on Sunday. However, the power company omitted to address what it was that caused the eight-hour plus blackout in Kitty and other sections of the city on Sunday, as well as the prolonged outages on Monday and on Tuesday. In fact, since Christmas ended, it would appear that whatever ‘special’ arrangements were made for the festive season were taken down and put away along with the Christmas trees. There has been no proper explanation, despite GPL’s recent overtures to consumers, which it said were in the interest of fostering better relations but which appear to have the makings of a publicity stunt. While consumers no doubt appreciate the gestures and the improved attitude of the power company’s staff, these will quickly become forgotten when they are faced with the frustration of power outages and low and high voltage in the supply, which results in damaged equipment and appliances.
Other areas of the country have not fared any better, Berbice being a prime example, where over the last few years outages have been more frequent than periods of electricity.
GPL is now a government entity and it falls under the purview of Prime Minister Sam Hinds, who does not need to be told, although it has been said ad nauseam that stable and reliable electricity is among the measures that need to be in place for development to occur. The country cannot be deemed to be progressing when only a small section of its population has proper access to electricity, because they can afford alternative energy. For decades now reliable electricity supply has been a luxury rather than the necessity it is. Will this go on forever then? Can anyone in the sector inform the long-suffering ordinary Guyanese now, exactly how long it will be before they no longer have to worry about what they will do if there is a blackout?