Prime Minister Samuel Hinds has expressed his “embarrassment” at the level of commercial losses suffered by the Guyana and Power and Light (GPL) Inc as a result of customers who do not pay what they ought to for the electricity they consume.
The Prime Minister, responding to questions from this newspaper yesterday said, “The problem of which I as Prime Minister and as a citizen, and all Guyanese should be embarrassed is our commercial loss.”
Reiterating statements that have been made several times by GPL over the last few months, the Prime Minister said that aside from technical losses, which account for about 14% of the company’s overall losses, the company also suffers commercial losses, which account for 18% of the overall amount.
The commercial losses sustained, which account for the largest portion of the company’s losses (18%), is caused by customers who cheat the system by either tampering with the network so that they pay less than they ought to, or those who rig the system in such a way that they pay nothing at all for their consumption.
“It is estimated that on average, one out of every six customers is involved in arranging to pay less than he should for the electricity he burns,” Hinds exclaimed, and urged Guyanese to do better than Barbados which only sees about 6.5% of its losses being commercial in nature.
Line losses on the other hand, he explained, occur as a result of the fact that the distribution network is currently overloaded. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Bharrat Dindyal had said that much of the power which is sent through the system is converted into head and never reaches the customer. This, he said, occurs because of the amount of resistance which exists in transformers and other components of the network.
The Prime Minister has said that the cost to make the distribution more effective would amount to approximately US$100 million or more and the company says that a sizable investment has already been made in the network to decrease technical losses. The phasing out of the less efficient transformers for more efficient ones and the construction of several sub-stations are testament to these efforts, Dindyal had said.
However, Dindyal has said the $5.2 billion which was slashed from funds intended for the company by government has put much of this work in jeopardy. The loss of this amount has prompted the company to propose imposing a 26% tariff hike in an effort to recoup at least some of the amounts which it has lost.
Both the Alliance for Change (AFC) and A Party for National Unity (APNU) have opposed the increase, and the government has been engaging the parties in an attempt to negotiate the restoration of at least some of the amounts.
APNU executive member Joe Harmon, however, has said that the party wants to meet GPL’s management in order to consider whether it should receive anything more than what has already been given. Harmon said APNU has made the request and he believes steps are being taken to organise such a meeting.
When asked if the request for the meeting was communicated to government, Hinds said, “I cannot recall being told so.” He nevertheless said that “there is ongoing talking at various levels,” and he hoped such a meeting, if it did take place, would do much to sway the minds of the opposition.
He was also hopeful that the funding will be restored soon. Harmon however, said that even if the meeting takes place there are no guarantees that APNU will restore any or all of the amounts which were cut.