No risk in ending Wartsila management of GPL stations, Badal says

There is no risk in ending the contract with Wartsila for the management of four Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) supply stations, according to Board Chairman Robert Badal, who says the utility company is competent enough to undertake the job.

“We have come a long way as a partner with Wartsila. We feel that there is no risk at this time because we have developed sufficient capacity, sufficient training, [and] sufficient competences in the generation of power,” Badal told a press conference yesterday at the Pegasus Hotel.

While briefly explaining the decision, he informed that the company will “later down the line” make a full disclosure to the public.

“There are meetings continuing and soon we will be able to make a full disclosure as to the direction we are taking, the transition team and the transition process,” he added.

Ramon Gaskin, former Chairman of the former Guyana Electricity Corporation (GEC), which had preceded GPL, has called for government to explain the decision to end the contract with Wartsila.

Gaskin, under whose tenure Wartsila’s service was first retained in 1994, says that he believes that the non-renewal could be detrimental to Guyanese and holds the prospect of taking Guyana back to days plagued by lengthy blackouts.

Government is mulling not renewing the contract for GPL’s four plants when that contract comes to an end and have a local company operate and manage the Wartsila engines.

“It is believed that it will work out cheaper for the country that way because it is our field workers who are maintaining and operating the engines anyway. This would eliminate the money going to a third party and can be used to develop  GPL’s current infrastructure here…no jobs would be lost, or well …not many because the company will use the same staff,” a source explained.

Badal echoed much of what the source said, while adding that Wartsila’s services in other areas will still be needed.

“Why government felt it is a good decision to go our own way? We feel there is certainly no risk. I know the public is concerned that, from experiences in the past, that reliability was much less that what it is now,” he said.

“As to the process and the length of time, we haven’t had discussion with Wartsila in detail as yet. I can assure you that the process would soon start.  Wartsila will continue, like other suppliers. We are a long-term partner because there are a number of other services that Wartsila provides, in the area of the overhaul of our gensets, supplying the technology, maintenance, consultancy. So, Wartsila will still continue to provide support to GPL,” he added.

Prior to 1992, the GEC was brought to its knees under the then PNC government. Total and lengthy shutdowns of the power system were the order of the day. There were also extended periods of load shedding in all parts of the country and numerous cases of bad management of power generators by the then GEC, resulting in extensive damage and costly repairs.

Badal stressed that the problem of power outages has to do with line maintenance and not power generated as currently 140 Megawatts of power is generated and at peak periods only 114MW is used. He said that the company continues to focus on implementing measures and upgrading its systems to tackle the issue.

“We still have an old network infrastructure and periodically we have to be doing maintenance. Most of the blackouts are trips in the system, like feeder. We have substations that have feeders and when it trips, because of vegetation or some other reason…we get blackouts,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the CEO noted that “soon” the power company hopes to hire a substantive Chief Executive Officer.

“As it relates to the management of GPL, we are still looking for a CEO. We work closely with Mister [Renford] Homer, who has been acting. Mister Homer is very stretched. Right now, he is doing a very good job there,” he said, while adding “soon, soon, I can assure you of that,” when pressed further for a timeframe.