Berbice businessmen seeking meeting with PM on electricity
To propose separate system for Region Six By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
April 14, 2003

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The Upper Corentyne Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UCCC&I) plans to seek an early meeting with Prime Minister Samuel Hinds to discuss the unstable electricity situation which has over recent weeks impacted negatively on every facet of national life.

The organisation is also hoping to encourage its sister Chambers, the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association (BCC&DA) and the West Berbice Chamber of Commerce, to support the initiative.

According to the Chamber head his organisation will propose the severing of the Berbice inter-connected system from the Demerara system in an effort to ensure a more reliable supply of electricity to Berbicians.

“Our proposal will entail the establishment of a public company owned by Berbicians and managed by competent professionals in the field and the business community. We have the technical people with the required expertise and business-persons with the knowledge to efficiently manage Canefield and improve the quality of service offered.”

Guysuco, he explained, will be encouraged to proceed with its bagasse project to generate electricity since it will be assured of a ready market of at least 5 megawatts of power. “Apart from this we intend to install another Caterpillar generator at Rose Hall town to service that area as part of our overall improvement plan,” he explained.

Speaking with Stabroek News at his Upper Corentyne home on Thursday, president of the UCC&I, David Subnauth said a letter requesting the meeting with the Prime Minister will be dispatched early this week.

“We will also speak with our colleagues in the two other Chambers so that a combined delegation of Berbician businessmen could approach the Prime Minister to discuss the worrying electricity situation,” he said.

“The spate of daily outages is having a tremendously negative effect on the business community with the hardest hit being those wholly dependent on power from the national grid.”

Over recent weeks Berbicians on both sides of the river have been subjected to daily 4-hour periods of outages following the implementation of a massive load-shedding programme by the power company.

In a weekly advisory outlining the schedule, the Guyana Power and Light Inc. said: “GPL regrets to inform customers that due to insufficient cash, fuel purchases this week will be approximately 15% less than that required to cover the next seven days. Due to this shortfall, GPL will be unable to generate electricity to meet demands.”

Consumers from as far as Crabwood Creek on the Upper Corentyne and Bygeval on the East Coast of Demerara are being affected by the daily four-hour outages. The advisory is aired weekly on a local television station but according to Subnauth “the guide should be published in the newspaper similar to the Demerara schedule so that consumers cannot only be aware of the periods of outages but can also plan their activities and work programmes in keeping with the schedule.”

The Canefield plant is serviced by the Number 4 Mirrlees Blackstone set which generates approximately 5 megawatts of electricity and three mobile Caterpillar sets with a capacity to produce approximately 1.2/1.3 megawatts. The Number 53 Sub-station is serviced by two mobile Caterpillar sets.

At the Onverwagt Power Station the company has two mobile sets and a 2.5 megawatt General Motors set. The peak demand in East and West Berbice is approximately 15 megawatts of power. A major source of the company’s problems in East Berbice has been continual difficul-ties with its Number Three five-megawatt Mirrlees Blackstone generating set, which dates back to 1997.

The alternator of the set suffered a mechanical failure in February 1997 and was sent to the United Kingdom in December 1999 for repairs and rehabilitation. In September 2000 it was re-commissioned after the repairs were completed at a cost of some $55 million. The set which is one of two at Canefield was pulled out of the system in August last year after the very alternator again developed problems. It has been out of operation since with no indication as to when it will be repaired.

According to a senior official of the company, the problem in Berbice is attributable to the absence of the Number Three set which will take several months to fix.

But Subnauth says: “The problem with the company has been bad management and I am certain we can run the utility much more efficiently since it is a viable business and there is always a demand for electricity.”

Consumers across the length and breadth of Region Six and the West Berbice sub-region have long been complaining about the poor level of service being provided by the company but to no avail. Many have suffered losses totalling millions of dollars over the years and a number of business-persons have been forced to purchase generators to power their businesses.

Chief Executive Officer, John Lynn during his last visit to the region acknowledged that Berbice had suffered from poor service over the years.

Subnauth is hoping that other areas would submit similar proposals to run systems in other parts of the country.

President of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association (BCCC&DA), Gurdat Marray said business-persons have been complaining for sometime now about the poor service being offered by the power company. “The present situation is having a serious effect on businesses and has raised serious security issues. Over the years we have constantly raised the problem of power supply with visiting Ministers but no improvement has been forthcoming. Senior officials of the company have also been reluctant to discuss the problem with us over the years,” he lamented, adding “we are very concerned over the situation and would like to see some immediate improvements.”

The BCC&DA is expected to discuss the situation at its statutory meeting next Thursday. Marray said his association will be open to any initiative aimed at improving the situation when told of Subnauth’s statement.

Corriverton’s Mayor, Roy Baijnauth told Stabroek News that the outages were having a serious effect on businesses and consumers in general. “People are obviously not satisfied with the present supply and would like to see early improvements.” A number of businesses in Corriverton and Crabwood Creek have been generating their own power for several years now because of the age-old problem with supply for the national grid. Inadequate power supply and periodic voltage fluctuations have combined over the years to hamper and stifle development in a region well-known for its abundant resources.

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