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The Prime Minister’s visit was initiated by a directive from President Bharrat Jagdeo, after the ancient county was plunged into electricity woes and he was accompanied by Mr. Norvan Persaud, a Director on the new GPL Board of Directors.
The Prime Minister and team were assured by GPL personnel in Berbice, that the defaulting equipment would have been fixed by Friday afternoon, a promise which according to the Government Information Agency (GINA) was indeed kept.
GPL engineers, according to a release, had said the shutdown was as a result of the damage to the voltage transformer by a rat, allowing only for three megawatts of power to be generated to the Berbice electrification system from the Cane Field location.
The Cane Field location has the capacity to generate at least 14 megawatts of power.
Adding to the situation is the need for replacement parts on another generating set that has been out of operation for some eight months.
The Prime Minister noted that at least $140M is needed to repair the set.
Persaud pointed out that once the replacement parts have been procured, it would take another six to eight months for the remedial works to be completed on the engine.
He said too that only two of the four Caterpillar generating sets at Cane Field are operable and have been generating the three megawatts of power.
Meanwhile, the long dry season has compounded the difficulties experienced by the GPL in Berbice, as there is a significant amount of salt on the surface of the ground.
It was observed that between Canje and Whim, significant amounts of salt were visible in usually swamped areas and trenches.
The dry season has dried those usually swamped (by salt-water from the Atlantic Ocean) areas leaving large residues of salt.
GPL Regional Manager Mr. Kenneth Klass explained that the salt along with the dust rises and affect the insulators on the 69KV (main) transmission lines out of Cane Field, that contributes to the Number 53 sub-station’s capacity to distribute sufficient electricity to the affected Upper Corentyne areas.
Klass contended too, that because a 13 KV transmission line is being used, less electricity reaches the Number 53 sub-station, hence the Upper Corentyne does not receive sufficient power.
Persaud is of the view that the constant low voltage which the Upper Corentyne areas receive is worst than blackouts.
Klass noted that work on the 69KV transmission line is currently being carried out.
Meanwhile, in an effort to boost the generating capacity of the Number 53 sub-station to properly service Corriverton and other Upper Corentyne areas up to Crabwood Creek, the Government has directed GPL to relocate a mobile generating set to the location.
The set is however under repairs and Prime Minister Hinds has assured residents of the affected areas that by Friday, it would be in operation at the Number 53 sub-station.
The electricity situation was also discussed with residents of the Maida/Tarlogie area at Phillipi and the management of the Number 66 Fishport Complex.
The electricity problem which has seriously affected the operations of the Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) in Berbice, since a significant number of the pumping stations throughout Berbice use electrical pumps, has also been discussed.
The issue had prompted a meeting late last week between the Regional Managers of the two utility companies.
At Corriverton where Prime Minister Hinds was accompanied by Regional Chairman, Kumkarran Ramdass; Community Liaison Officer for the Office of the President in Berbice, Jaffar Alli and Mr Persaud of GPL, the electricity sector in Berbice was addressed at a meeting that was held with members of the Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce and Industry and members of the Corriverton Town Council,
According to the release, the Prime Minister was asked to examine the possibility of divesting the East Berbice operations to the residents, but he said he did not subscribe to what he perceives to be the “parcelling off the electricity utility” to different sub-sectors. Alluding to a similar request made by the residents of Region Three, the Prime Minister said the request might not be the best way forward for the electricity sector in Berbice. He opined that local investment of US$10M per year for the next three years might be the ideal way forward for the GPL, adding that such an investment can be done through a public share-holding system.
The release noted that the view seemed to have found favour with the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association and the West Berbice Chamber, with which the Prime Minister met later in the day at New Amsterdam.
It was also requested at that meeting that the possibility of accessing power from Bermine be examined, Persaud said that might not be practical, since Bermine is also experiencing difficulties with power generation.
The meeting discussed too, better monitoring of fuel distribution to power stations, a more efficient billing system and an improved competence level of GPL staff, while Persaud stressed that the difficulties experienced by the GPL should not be seen as a party problem, but rather as a country problem.
Prime Minister Hinds, who has overall ministerial responsibility for the electricity sector, noted that there are a number of issues affecting the cash flow of GPL and cited meter tampering, under-billed consumers, internal fraud such as deliberate under-billing of consumers by GPL staff and the malfunctioning of old meters.
Noting that at least 70,000 of the approximately 120,000 consumers are under-billed, Mr Hinds said this has resulted in the company operating at a 40 per cent loss for sometime now.
In addition, the Government has spent approximately $500M per month for the months of February and March on fuel, a situation that has prompted Government to continue to examine the issue of hydropower.
The Berbice inter-connected system is currently powered by three megawatts of power from the Onverwagt Power Station, eight megawatts from the Canefield Power Station and just under three megawatts from the Number 53 sub-station, resulting in a total generating capacity of just under 14 megawatts of power.
The power is used to service both sides of the Berbice River, from Bygeval on the East Coast of Demerara to Crabwood Creek on the Upper Corentyne Berbice, with a peak demand for 12 megawatts of power.
However, during rice harvesting and milling periods the peak demand rises to 15 megawatts. (GOVERNMENT INFORMATION AGENCY -GINA)