Power outages disrupting lives of thousands of Berbicians
- Chamber seeking meeting with GP&L

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
January 5, 2000

Power outages disrupting lives of thousands of Berbicians - Chamber seeking meeting with GP&L By Daniel DaCosta

Exactly eleven hours into the New Year, Berbicians were greeted with a recurring nightmare that has plagued them for the past decade.

As thousands celebrated the New Year large sections of the region were thrown into darkness after the number four Mirrlees Blackstone unit at Canefield suffered a mechanical failure. Since then (Saturday night) the supply of electricity has not only been limited but has varied from area to area. In some areas consumers have been receiving power for approximately four hours per day while some have been receiving on an eight-hour basis.

According to the Guyana Power and Light (GP&L) two 1.5-megawatt caterpillar generators are in operation at Canefield while one is functioning at No.53 Village on the Corentyne. The malfunctioning of the No.4 unit at Canefield has, however, reduced the supply capability by some five megawatts. In addition, a GP&L press release yesterday said that the 2.5-megawatt set at Onverwagt developed minor problems over the weekend and in a bid to contain further damage the recently refurbished unit was taken out of operation. Experts travelled to West Berbice to fix the set and it was returned to service yesterday. It is being carefully monitored.

GP&L said that the damage to the Mirrlees Blackstone set is more critical and an urgent order for replacement parts was placed on Sunday with a UK company. The parts should arrive on the weekend for the reassembly of the set. GP&L's Regional Manager, Ken Klass estimates that the entire exercise should last no more than two weeks during which "a heavy load shedding programme has been instituted as a result of a severe shortfall in generating capacity". Both East and West Berbice will be affected.

GP&L said it is aware of the inconvenience being suffered by Berbicians and said a team of managers headed by the Chief Executive Officer is to meet with the Regional Chairman of Region Six, other leaders and the Berbice press on the situation.

Businessmen on the Upper Corentyne are up in arms over the situation saying that on Sunday only four hours of electricity was available. "Yesterday (Monday) there was none until 11:00 am. Today (Tuesday)", one businessman told Stabroek News yesterday, "the situation is terrible, we are losing business, money and valuable time. As paying consumers we should receive electricity on a regular basis and the Guyana Power and Light Inc. has failed to supply its consumers with a stable and reliable power supply".

Several housewives and business-persons told Stabroek News they lost thousands of dollars in spoilt meat, chicken and fish, as a result of the prolonged outages.

Meanwhile, vice-president of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association (BCC&DA) Ramdial Bhookmohan and members of the Chamber paid an inspection visit to the Canefield plant yesterday. Following the visit, the businessman told Stabroek News "we were not satisfied with the time frame given for repairs to be completed on the unit. Why should it take two weeks to replace two bolts?, he asked, "and why aren't spares kept at the plants?" According to Bhookmohan "there have been no improvements in the electricity supply to Berbicians since GPL took over." He disclosed that the Chamber is seeking a meeting with the general manager of GPL to discuss the situation.

Back in April 1999, the then Guyana Electricity Corporation launched a daily load-shedding exercise on the West and East Coast of Berbice. The exercise has become necessary according to the corporation because of "generation shortfall". Since then Berbicians have been experiencing daily power outages. Today it has intensified.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples