Improved power supply for Berbice by Friday
- Hatch
- second Canefield unit to be back by May 2000

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
January 7, 2000

Guyana Power and Light Inc's (GP&L) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Noel Hatch yesterday assured that the electricity situation in Berbice will improve "no later than Friday, January 14".

In a prepared statement at a press briefing in the boardroom of the Regional Democratic Council (RDC) Vryman's Erven, New Amsterdam, the CEO disclosed that the spare parts required for the repair of the Number 4 unit's generator at Canefield, East Canje are expected to arrive at Canefield tomorrow. "Following complete testing and commissioning we expect repairs to be completed no later than Friday, January 14. Every effort will be made to complete the work earlier if possible", he said at the briefing called by the new company to placate Berbicians reeling from lengthy power outages.

On Saturday last the Number 4 unit encountered mechanical problems plunging large sections of East and West Berbice into darkness and disrupting the lives of thousands. According to Hatch, the spare parts were being airfreighted out of England yesterday. "This is the first time that this particular component has failed in either GEC's or GP&L's experience", he said. However, the CEO disclosed that "it would not be normal to carry such components as operational spares". According to Hatch "it is not possible for any utility worldwide to carry spares for every possible component that could fail in any generating unit. Instead, utilities design the generating system based on the assumption of generator redundancy". This principle means that if one unit fails, then there is spare capacity for the remaining units to supply the electricity demand, he explained. Canefield is designed to accommodate two generating units. "It is GP&L's objective to have both units back in service by May 2000", he told the briefing.

At the moment GP&L is generating approximately four megawatts of electricity in East and West Berbice from three 1.5-megawatt mobile caterpillar generators. Two are stationed at Canefield and one at Number 53 Village on the Corentyne according to Regional Engineer Kenneth Klass. However, East Berbice and West Berbice require approximately 12.7 megawatts of electricity to satisfy consumer demand. Asked to comment on a press release issued on January 4, which said inter alia that "the number five, 2.5-megawatt set at Onverwagt returned to service on Tuesday," Klass said it was returned on Tuesday but encountered problems and had to be pulled out of use again. At the moment West Berbice is being partially serviced by Canefield. Klass disclosed that the number 5 unit at Onverwagt is expected to be back in operation sometime next week. Questions were, however, raised by one journalist/economist about the ability of the company to service several areas on the East and West Berbice at a particular period as stated on a published load-shedding guide bearing in mind the demands of those areas and the present generation level.

Asked what plans the company had in the eventuality of a failure of one of the three mobile sets, the CEO told the briefing there was no contingency plan.

According to the CEO, some US$9 million was gathered by GP&L following the privatisation of the power company and this is being used "in the running of the company". "The company", he disclosed "is at the moment trading at a loss". Asked about any plans by GP&L to provide additional power to Berbicians in the interim, Hatch remarked that no mobile sets were available in the country and it would take some six weeks to acquire one from Miami under an agreement that it be rented for at least six months. This, he said, the company did not find economically viable or feasible given these factors.

According to Hatch the alternator for the Canefield Number 3 unit was shipped to the United Kingdom in December for repairs. The alternator was extensively damaged two years ago. "The estimated time we have for completion of these repairs is May 2000", he explained. "At this time the component will be returned to GP&L and recommissioned, thereby restoring two units with 10 megawatts capacity back to service." This, he noted, will give the generation system in the Berbice area a level of system security which will approximate to what utility operators would normally expect to find, "according to American and European norms". The CEO was accompanied at the stormy briefing by the company's Public Relations Officer Marjorie Chester and Klass. The team met earlier in the day with the regional chairman and the regional democratic council and later with the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples