Charge persons stealing electricity, lower rates for the elderly – Consumer Advocate tells GPL


The Guyana Power and Light (GPL), the country’s main electricity generation company, in its 13th public review before the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Thursday lamented its losses at a time when electricity demand is expanding quickly.

Members of GPL’s executive management, led by Kesh Nandlall, told the PUC that while minimal improvements were recorded from internal efforts to address losses, theft and defective meters continue to pose a great challenge.

The challenge is sensitive when higher demand for power is assessed amid rising global temperatures and national economic growth.

Head of Loss Reduction at GPL, Parsram Persaud said losses in 2023 are 25.5 per cent.

He said to reduce these losses, GPL has been replacing defective and maximum demand (MD) meters with new AMI devices. However, loss from theft and defective meters is mainly sustained rather than substantially reduced.

GPL is reported to have recovered millions in losses by replacing defective meters and while there have been some raids for illegal connections, these successes remain largely unmeasured.

To help stem the issue, longtime consumer advocate Pat Dyal, who attended the public hearing at Herdmanston Lodge, said GPL should consider a focused program to seek out and charge persons found stealing electricity.

“People who are stealing [electricity] should be charged,” he said.

Consumer advocate Pat Dyal. [Photo:” News Room/ March 14, 2024.]
In 2023, there were reports that five Zeelugt Squatting Area residents would face the courts over charges related to electricity theft.

Back in 2008, over 100 persons were arrested for theft of electricity. The outcome in the matters are largely unknown but what is known is that the penalty for stealing electricity is a fine of $50,000 and a mandatory sentence of one year imprisonment.

Persaud said the convictions in these cases were few and was costing GPL significantly to pursue prosecution.

“To get the message across that theft is wrong and you can go to jail we need to get cases with convictions,” he added.

The discussions on electricity theft before the PUC were widespread but largely remained inconclusive with Nandlall calling for an overall culture change.

Persaud believes that within the next five years, when all meters are replaced with AMI devices and a smart grid is fully in place, the issue will be fixed.

In 2023, almost 100, 000 meters were placed with AMI devices.

Dyal had several other suggestions for GPL, including a targeted review of its management and consideration for lower electricity rates for the elderly.

As early as 2013, the government had introduced an annual electricity subsidy for old-age pensioners.

Dyal acknowledged this but said with other entities offering different facilities for older Guyanese, he thinks GPL should consider another facility in addition to the government subsidy for persons over 80 years.

Members of GPL’s executive management make their presentation during the review session before the Public Utilities Commission. [Photo: News Room/ March 14, 2024.]
“It wouldn’t charge much because it’s a small number of people… they are dying very quickly,” he added.

Nandlall responded to the suggestion and reminded that in addition to the government subsidy, there has been no increase in electricity rates in recent years even though the cost of fuel has increased and is expected to increase further.

He said, as a regulated body, he will make representation on Dyal’s behalf.

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