GPL recorded more blackouts, for longer durations in 2016

Guyana Power and Light Inc (GPL) yesterday reported that there were more blackouts and for longer durations last year than in the previous year.

This disclosure was made when GPL presented its operating standards and performance targets yesterday to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) at the Cara Lodge, where it reported that it fell short of most of its targets for 2016.

Addressing the issue of customer interruptions, Deputy CEO (Technical) Elwyn Marshall pointed out that while the company had set a target of 75 for the System Average Interruption Frequency (SAIFI)—representing the total number of customers served divided by the total number of interruptions—the final figure stood at 118.6, compared with 99.8 in 2015.

For the System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI), Marshall pointed out, GPL recorded an average of 125.8 hours, as compared with its 90 hours target and its 96.5 hours achievement of 2015.

This, he said, was as a result of the cable linking the Kingston Power Station and West Demerara being out of order. “It meant that we were unable to access over 16MW of our generating capacity,” he explained, while noting that the Demerara Berbice Interconnected System’s demand was being supplied by a system that had “little or no reserve capacity.”

He explained that most of the recorded outages occurred in the latter half of the year, when the link was down. “The causes of outages would show that generator trips significantly increased in the latter half of 2016 and this was primarily due to the fact we did not have the cable reported. Notwithstanding this aspect of performance, I must admit that [in] the SAIFI trips due to feeder problems, we had not experienced the improvement we had hoped to do in 2016,” Marshall said.

In order to address the issues, Marshall related, the power company reviewed its performance and decided that there are things that needed to be implemented to reduce the outages and their duration and it is acquiring equipment to assist. “Currently when a feeder trips, the process takes ten minutes and if we have no report either from GPL employees or members of the public that there has been some explosion, after ten minutes we close off the feeder,” he explained, while stating that numerous times when the feeders were closed off, it was discovered that the issue was a temporary fault.

“What we proposed to do is to acquire auto-recloses, which can be programmed to reclose the trips and if it still sees a fault it lights up so while it would not reduce on the number of trips, it would certainly affect the duration of trips,” he said, while highlighting that the company is also looking into other equipment that will assist in identifying and isolating faults. While there is similar technology installed on transmission lines, Marshall said the intention is to have it installed on distribution lines and sub feeders as well.

Meanwhile, although the company had set out a target of addressing 100% of consumer complaints stemming from voltage regulation issues within 30 days, it was only able to achieve 96.9% within the allotted days as compared to the 97% coverage it achieved in 2015.

This, Marshall said, was due to the fact that it could not directly monitor the voltage consumers were receiving. The three per cent of consumers not addressed was because the issues required more extensive network reconfiguration. “I think as we introduce smart meters, these meters have the capacity of allowing us to monitor the voltage of individual consumers’ meters and basically as we introduce more of these meters we would be in a position to do a better analysis of whether we are maintaining the voltage in ways we should,” he added.

With respect to meter reading, while the company had set out a 97% target for high demand customers, it was only able to achieve 94%, representing an improvement from 92% in 2015. For non-high demand customers, the company set a target of 90%, but was only able to achieve 88%, but it was an improvement on its 87% achievement in 2015. “The primary reason behind this shortfall with respect to the target is the experience we have had in some cases of retrieving those readings,” acting CEO Renford Homer explained. He pointed out that the high demand customers are equipped with meters that use Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) technology and sometimes when their employees go into the field to read the meters, they would not be able to do so.

To fix this issue, he pointed out that the company had decided to change from the AMR meters but it was not able to do so as it was prioritising fulfilling new applications.

In terms of the non-high demand customers, Homer related that many times employees face difficulties with having access to customers’ meters to read them.

With the issuing of bills, while the company had set a target date of seven days for high demand customers, it was able to achieve its target within five days, as compared to six days in 2015. For the non-high demand customers, it had set a target of ten days but was able to do it in eight days, as compared to 11 days in 2015.

In addition to physical billing, Homer highlighted this is also done via email and persons can use their automated phone service to check their balances.

In terms of the company’s losses, while it had predicted and set an overall target of 28.6%, it was able to achieve 29.2%, which was the same as in 2015.

With respect to the average availability, while the company had set a target at 80%, it was able to achieve 84%, representing an improvement from 81% in 2015.

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