GPL in the dark on cause of shutdowns

-private sector incensed

With the Guyana Power and Light (GPL)  trying  to determine the cause of several shutdowns over the weekend that sparked numerous blackouts and left city residents fuming, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) has expressed dismay at the situation.

“I can’t tell you how disturbed we are about these blackouts…but at the same time we are appealing to businesses and residential customers of GPL to not leave on lights when not in use so as to ease on the load,” President of the PSC, Eddie Boyer told Stabroek News yesterday.

“We have had no explanation from GPL of what is happening and over the weekend the service was deplorable and unbearable. Businesses have expressed concern that these frequent power outages and fluctuations in power can cause fires,” he added.

GPL is still determining the cause of the outages and has issued a temporary notice to its customers.  The shutdowns will be seen as a major embarrassment for the company which subjected customers to prolonged  outages in November to avoid the problems which occurred over the weekend.

Efforts by Stabroek News to contact Acting Chief Executive Officer of GPL, Renford Homer, Chairman of the company’s Board, Robert Badal and Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson proved futile.

“We put out a temporary release …tomorrow we will put out a comprehensive release because we are still trying to ascertain what are all the causes of the several outages,” Public Relations Officer of GPL, Shevion Sears-Murray told Stabroek News when contacted.

She pointed to a notice on the company’s Facebook page which it issued yesterday.  That statement read, “Dear Valued Customers, over this weekend, the Demerara Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS) has experienced several disturbances which caused shutdowns yesterday (Saturday) and this morning (Sunday). We wish to reassure our customers that every effort is being made to stabilise our grid and bring all machines online in an effort to deliver uninterrupted supply of electricity. We ask for your patience at this time. Updates will follow as they become available.”

The silence from GPL does not rest well with the PSC as the organization’s president contended that even if the company is not aware of what the faults are but noticed the frequency in outages, it should rush to alert its customers and issue warnings on usage.

“You had about six, seven blackouts in one day and no one from the company has said anything, what went wrong over the past few days that saw customers in Demerara experiencing several power outages. People complained to us about the blackouts damaging their residential property because most times when the power resumes it surges and the frequent fluctuations are not good at all,” Boyer asserted.

“Coupled with the fluctuations we are experiencing lots of rain and there is some kind of tropical storm like conditions happening. I hope it don’t trigger any fires so I am appealing to persons to be mindful of how they are using electrical appliances and I know it is the holiday season for lots of lights, but if they could just take them off to ease on the overloading . We can only appeal to people to not create the overloading,” he added.

Boyer said he does not understand how after days of outages GPL does not know what is wrong.

“The irony of this thing is you must know what the problem is. You have a company and the system shuts down but it is a system that you know where the faults are and you can assess from there. I think, in circumstances like these, they should also issue an early warning about the possibilities of a surge of high voltage,” he said.

Last month, GPL notified of a series of scheduled blackouts to facilitate line maintenance which was supposed to ensure stable supply in a high-use month like December.

In a statement on November  7, GPL said on November 6 it effectively completed maintenance on the 69 kv transmission line and structures carrying 11 kV and 13.8 kV lines along the corridor linking the Kingston Power Stations to the Sophia Substation, at 20:00hrs.

Despite this work, shutdowns and blackouts continued after November 7. The shutdowns on Saturday and yesterday were more severe, raising ongoing questions about the management of GPL which has been without a Chief Executive Officer for months.

In October this year, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo enquired from Patterson about the causes of numerous power outages.

(..on October 21)  “the Prime Minister, who is performing the duties of President, requested of the Minister of Public Infrastructure, a report on the blackouts that were taking place. We did ask GPL to provide us with a report on what was happening in relation to these blackouts,” Minister of State Joseph Harmon told a post-Cabinet press conference.

Harmon informed that GPL provided government with reports on the Demerara-Berbice Interconnected System and stated that there was also “a tripping” in the line between Kingston and Sophia.

He said that the power company has given the assurance that it is making all efforts to continuously test the lines and correct faults.

“They have given the assurance that the blackouts were for a short period and there is [no] likelihood of blackouts again in that way,” Harmon had said.