Frustration is growing among residents along the Essequibo Coast as they continue to endure an unstable and irregular electricity supply from the Guyana Power and Light Inc. (GPL).
Up to yesterday, the complaints persisted even after Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson promised that electricity distribution along the Essequibo Coast would have returned to normal on Friday evening.
Patterson had given the confirmation on Friday afternoon during an interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI), where he also explained that the load shedding being experienced was the result of several generator sets going down over a period of time.
He noted, however, that a total outage was scheduled to facilitate rearrangement of the generators and transformers to accommodate the installation of a unit. He said, too, that intermittent problems with individual machines also led to unscheduled outages.
“We installed two sets with a total of capacity 3.1 Megawatts (MW) this week, so power will be back to normal this evening. It is expected that by 6 pm today another two units will be available, resulting in a total capacity of 5.8 MW that will be able to meet the demand,” the Minister told DPI on Friday.
However, Regional Vice-Chairperson Juliet Coonjah, in an interview with Sunday Stabroek, pointed out that despite the Minister’s claims, GPL had issued another public advisory relating to load shedding that is expected to last until Tuesday.
On its Facebook page, GPL announced that two of its units (No. 10 and No. 12) are “currently unavailable” due to the need for repairs, which will result in scheduled load shedding in areas over the next few days.
According to Coonjah, she was also informed that GPL had rented two generator units from MACORP but they were not expected to arrive until Monday.
“They rented two units from MACORP… they are trying to get one Caterpillar up, the two from MACORP—one coming from Canfield and they will try to see another one up to Monday—but we have seen another advisory issued for Tuesday… we know you have issues and we welcome the advisory letting us know what is going on but electricity is a necessity…people need electricity, people need water for their livelihood and so we are appealing to the government to intervene,” she added.
Coonjah noted that residents are suffering tremendously due to the irregular power supply.
“What is disappointing is that beginning the middle of this month residents have been suffering again… Residents of Essequibo are tremendously affected, food is going bad, appliances have been damaged and there is even no water at this point because the pump is powered solely by GPL,” she explained.
“One woman told me she had to dump over $30,000 in meat because of the power outages. Meat and fish vendors are being affected by the unstable current supply and they have to dump it all, this is affecting businesses here,” she added.
Sunday Stabroek was told that a small group of residents staged a protest on Friday in front of the power company’s office in hopes of garnering a response to their concerns.
“Yesterday (Friday), the Essequibo Chamber of Commerce, the private sector, NDCs and some business people staged a protest… there were few but they were representing a wide cross-section of people. We protested in front of GPL office, demanding an answer but instead of the Regional Manager come out and tell us what’s going on, they shut the gate on us. It’s like adding insult to injury; we can see that the Regional Manager does not have an answer to give us or is afraid, so we are calling on the Government of Guyana to answer us,” Coonjah said.
On August 18th, GPL explained in a statement that the outages along the Essequibo Coast over the previous week were as a result of the breakdown of two generating units.
It said on August 13th and August 16th, its No. 3 and No. 8 units, with an aggregate capacity of 2.8 MW, became inoperable due to major mechanical and electrical issues, respectively.
It added that since its No. 5 Unit, with a capacity of 1.4 MW, was unavailable due to a major overhaul, only two units totaling 3 MW are in operation, while the peak demand is approximately 4.2 MW. “As this cannot satisfy the demand of the entire Coast, load shedding was implemented. A five-day load shedding schedule was issued to residents until the expected return to normalcy on Monday 20th,” GPL said.
In the short term, the statement said, GPL is arranging the transfer of two Caterpillar units with a total capacity of 2.8 MWs. One unit was expected to arrive on August 19 which should have resulted in a total capacity of 4.6 MWs when installation is completed. Meanwhile, the other unit was scheduled to arrive on or before Tuesday, August 21st.
GPL added that it was continuing to pursue a permanent solution to the power shortages on the Coast and that steady progress is being made to meet its goal of having the new power station commissioned and operational during the last quarter of the year.