Power cuts besiege Berbice
PM visits region to assess problems
By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
April 26, 2003

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Government's point man for the electricity sector, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds accompanied by a team of management officials from the state-owned power company GPL rushed to Guyana's eastern-most region, East Berbice, yesterday to review the situation.

The hurriedly arranged visit was undertaken in the wake of yet another disruptive bout of power outages sparked by technical problems affecting two pieces of equipment at the company's Canefield Power Plant.

In a release on Thursday, GPL's Regional Manager Kenneth Klass disclosed that "the No. 4 Diesel Alternator (Mirrlees Blackstone) experienced a failure on Wednesday night. At the same time one of the Caterpillar engines at Canefield experienced an electrical problem causing it to be removed from operation." The engines, he said, are expected back in operation by weekend.

The power company has since advised consumers that "as a result of generation shortfall, scheduled interruption in various areas is inevitable." It also released a load-shedding guide, expected to last until today, for the Berbice Inter-connected system indicating eight-hour periods of outages in seven blocks from Bygeval on the East Coast of Demerara to Crabwood Creek on the Upper Corentyne.

Berbicians on both sides of the river had just begun feeling a sense of comfort following an announcement last week that scheduled load-shedding would be discontinued when their worst fear again materialized. Prior to this consumers were fed a daily dose of four-hour outages for weeks as the cash-strapped company grappled with what it said was money problems in securing adequate quantities of fuel to satisfy the demands of its generators.

The problems encountered with the No. 4 set and one of three Caterpillar sets at Canefield have resulted in a generation shortfall of approximately six megawatts of electricity in a system which has a peak demand for some twelve megawatts.

The No. 4 Mirrlees Black-stone set generates approximately 5 megawatts while the three Caterpillar sets generate another 4.5 megawatts. However over recent times the company has encountered periodic technical difficulties with these sets.

At No. 53 Village, Corentyne the company's sub-station has two Caterpil-lar sets generating approximately three megawatts of power, which service the Upper Corentyne area. But during the peak period at nights the demand on the Upper Corentyne increases and places additional strain on the two mobile sets at No. 53 Village. The situation has been compounded over the past week with technical problems affecting the 69 KV transmission line which connects Canefield and the No 53 sub-station.

According to Klass the connectors on the line have been affected by salt in the air over the past week causing corrosion. This has prevented the transmission of additional power from Canefield to the Corentyne via the line during the peak period. Remedial works are underway, he said, and are expected to be completed by this weekend.

Yesterday consumers from Bygeval to Crabwood Creek were without power from 8 am to 12 midnight during two eight-hour periods affecting every facet of activity in East and West Berbice. Numerous businesses in New Amster-dam, West Berbice and on the Corentyne Coast were hit by the outages, which seriously affected their sales.

According to Klass another Caterpillar set is needed at No. 53 Village to boost supply to the Upper Corentyne area. A Government Information Agency (GINA) release on Thursday said "the Guyana Power and Light Inc. under the direction of the Government is to relocate a mobile generating set to the No. 53 Village Power Station." No time frame was given for this "relocation" but Stabroek News understands that the set is not expected in the region until next week.

Meanwhile, electrical pumps operated by the Guy-ana Water Inc. throughout the region have also been seriously affected by the outages. GWI Regional Manager Joseph Codette told this newspaper that pumps between Fyrish and Crabwood Creek in particular have been affected by the outages. As a result water supply to consumers in these areas has been disrupted during the load-shedding periods.

However, Klass has suggested that officials of GWI should discuss the situation with GPL in an effort to ensure consumers know when power will be supplied to the areas where the pumps are located. The pumps' use of 440 volts also creates additional technical problems for the power company. In most areas while homes may be powered with 110-115 volts, the pumps will be inoperable because of the difference in voltage required. Codette admitted that GWI's pumps have been affected over recent weeks by low voltage.

Minister of Water and Housing Shaik Baksh was in the region last week to look at the situation on the ground. Codette had met with Klass last Friday to discuss the problem, according to the water company's regional manager.

Hinds yesterday met with the Upper Corentyne Cham-ber of Commerce and Industry (UCCC&I) and the Town Council to discuss the power situation and other issues.

The Chamber had proposed taking over the power company's east Berbice operations and had written the Prime Minister informing him of its plan. However, Hinds at that meeting said the proposal would have to be modified for further consideration. He had earlier visited the Canefield plant and the No. 53 sub-station and met with residents on the Corentyne before travelling to Corriverton.

Later in the day he met with media representatives at State House and members of the Berbice Chamber of Commerce and Development Association and the West Berbice Chamber. Berbicians are hoping that the Prime Minister's visit will soon result in a return to some normalcy and reliability in the power supply.

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