Brace for more blackouts; GPL’s submarine cable will take weeks to fix

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The Guyana Power and Light (GPL) company says it will take weeks to fix its damaged submarine cable which links its Kingston, Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop sub-stations.

“It will take a few weeks. We are trying to not go past a month but they have to mobilization and all kinds of things which they [China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CMC] said they have to do,” Chief Executive Officer of GPL, Albert Gordon told reporters at a press conference at the company’s Duke Street, Georgetown office on Wednesday.

Chief Executive Officer of GPL, Albert Gordon

CMC is the company which installed the cable in March 2012 as part of a US$5 million project for the upgrade of transmission and distribution systems, and has since been responsible for its maintenance.

Since the cable was damaged on Sunday, June 2,2019, customers across the country have been experiencing constant blackouts as the company conducts a load shedding exercise to ease the pressure on the transmission system.

“We do recognise the hardships that are being experienced and again we apologise… last time this happen, it took quite a bit of time to restore normalcy. We’re not going to have that this time,” Gordon said.

GPL said it would retrieve the cable today. It was disclosed that the armour of the submarine cable was damaged based on an assessment by divers.

The company is in talks with the Maritime Administration to notify ships of the cable’s position so caution can be taken. It is also speaking to the cable manufacturer to inspect and ensure the cable is returned in a pristine fashion since the problem has been recurring.

On the last occasion, over $100M was spent to fix the damage.

Added to the damaged cable, the company’s second and third largest generator sets are down.

“It’s a combination of unfortunate events,” the CEO who promised to end blackouts when he was appointed over a year ago, said.

He said GPL is hoping to have one of the generators capable of producing 7.8 megawatts of current back up in a week and will be moving smaller units from Anna Regina, Essequibo to Region Four to assist in the meantime.

Additionally, GPL is trying to get power from Vreed-en-hoop by using its low voltage cable.

The power company is also working to finalise Power Purchase Agreements with Banks DIH and Giftland to buy power from those two companies.

It was explained that the company needs 100 megawatts to supply the needs of customers in the city and on the coast. Fourteen  megawatts usually comes from the Vreed-en-hoop sub-station.

The Vreed-en-hoop sub-station produces 26 megawatts of power of which 12megawatts is used in Region Three.

Gordon explained that the company is faced with a greater challenge to upgrade its transmission and distribution network since the transmission lines are not duplicated to assist if one cable is damaged.

The aim, he said, is to evolve GPL to a world class standard within five years, providing the finance is available.

Ryan Ross, Divisional Director of Projects explained that the cable is continuously damaged since it was laid in a commercial shipping zone.

Ryan Ross, Divisional Director of Projects

He said the company is working to extend a transmission line from Vreed-en-hoop to Wales on the West Bank of Demerara where it will construct a sub-station. Subsequently, a cable will run from Wales to Garden of Eden on the East Bank of Demerara to provide an alternative to the Kingston-Vreed-en-Hoop submarine cable.

Discussions are ongoing with financial agencies, he said.

On the transmission side, it was noted that substations are connected by single lines across the power grid. The company is looking to create redundant lines to avoid a complete shutdown when one line is damaged. It has already started the Sophia-Kingston link which should be completed within two years.

GPL’s distribution network

GPL was provided with significant sums of monies over the years to improve its systems including a $40M IDB loan which was used to create additional sub-stations at specific locations.

However, according to Ross, the money was inadequate to complete all of which needed to be done to fix a distribution system which was falling apart.

The company has received another US$20M from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) which will be used to reconfigure the Kingston sub-station.

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