Berbicians reeling from more power outages By Daniel Da Costa
Stabroek News
October 24, 2003

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Consumers on both sides of the Berbice River had barely recovered from yet another round of power outages last week, when they were hit once again by prolonged periods of darkness as electricity generation problems continue to plague the Guyana Power and Light Inc.

Last week the power company’s two-megawatt General Motors Set at Onverwagt, West Berbice, developed mechanical difficulties and this automatically reduced the company’s generation capacity, sparking widespread outages during the day and night. The peak-demand of thousands of East and West Berbice consumers at nights is around 14.2 megawatts.

The Onverwagt station now has just one mobile Caterpillar set which generates approximately 1.2 mega-watts. According to a source from the Canefield power plant, the Berbice inter-connected system is now experiencing a shortfall of approximately three megawatts. The main Canefield plant has at its disposal three mobile Caterpillar Sets and the Number Four Mirrlees Blackstone Unit generating some 8.1 megawatts of electricity.

The shortfall has forced the company to introduce increased load-shedding from Bygeval, West Berbice to Crabwood Creek, Corentyne. Over the past week villages between Bygeval and Crabwood Creek divided into seven areas have been experiencing outages at least three times a week at nights. The outages at nights range from between four to six hours. During the day line maintenance activities cause disruptions across the inter-connected system on an average of eight hours in identified blocks of villages.

Stabroek News understands that Berbice consumers will receive no relief until next month when the Onverwagt set is expected to return to service. In the meantime, businesses across the two regions continue to suffer tremendous losses as a result of the daily outages. Their losses have been mainly in the area of perishables, such as dairy products, meats and fish. But offices and institutions have also not been spared the inconvenience and the loss of man hours and productivity. Domestic consumers who make up the majority of the company’s customers also incur additional expenses as a result of the outages.

At the heart of the power company’s woes in the region is the fact that its 4.5 megawatt Mirrlees Black-stone Unit at Canefield has been out of service for almost two years now. Repairs to it require an estimated US$700,000 ($140 million). Berbicians are not likely to experience any major improvements in the supply of electricity until this sum is made available and the repairs undertaken.