…“keeping the lights on is the biggest challenge” – new CEOBy Samuel SukhnandanIn an effort to end the constant blackouts and bring some level of efficiency to local electricity services, the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Inc is seeking US$110 million to assist with a strategic plan to overhaul the entire operation, as well as upgrade and reconfigure the supply system to produce better electricity.New GPL CEO Albert GordonThis revelation was made by the newly-appointed Jamaica-born Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GPL, Albert Gordon, who said that he has already made the proposal to Government.Speaking on Wednesday at a cocktail reception at Pegasus Hotel, where he was formally introduced to members of the local media, Gordon said that there were several deficiencies that he discovered while on his familiarisation trip to almost all the GPL facilities across the country.“That is the biggest challenge now, keeping the lights on and as I have mentioned in a different forum, there are different contributors to that. Not the least of which is the existing infrastructure and configuration of the system. The GPL system is evolving from a bunch of smaller systems that are being integrated and right now, there are serious deficiencies in the system that we need to address,” he said.Power outagesIn providing a detailed explanation on one of the issues that cause the constant power outages, the CEO explained that in a normal case where a distribution line takes power to someone’s house, in several instances they are connected directly to the generator. But he said this is not how a power system is configured.“You generate, increase the voltage to some high-voltage lines, move it to a substation, reduce the voltage and then distribute to customers. That way the generator is shielded from events that may happen on the distribution lines that run along the road. Right now, that is not the case for a number of substations.”Gordon said in the case of the Kingston substation, there are a number of lines leaving that station. “If there is a fault on any one of those lines, and they are long distribution lines along the road, if a tree falls on it, it feeds all the way back to the generator, takes out those generators. The other generators that are there to protect itself goes off, and the system goes down. So, that’s one major deficiency in the system.”Another deficiency, the CEO pointed out, is the fact that there is not a lot of ‘redundancy’. “Normally when you are designing a power system, if any major piece of equipment should fail, the customer should not know, because there is a backup piece of equipment to ensure that power is still reaching customers.“However, that is not the case. In fact, the transmission system is supposed to keep the rest of the system stable.” According to him, there are a number of lines leaving Sophia, which leads to other substations like Good Hope, Skeldon, and Kingston, which he described as spurs coming off a star system.“It means that if there is a fault on line 16 going up from Good Hope to Skeldon, everything along that side is out and if you have a system separation and there is no balance in the generation, and one side has too much generation, the generators will speed and trip to protect themselves. One side has too little, they will slow down and trip to protect themselves and the entire system goes down again,” he explained.According to him, it is not a case where the units do not try to stay on, but if you keep them on beyond a certain point, they will damage, and it, therefore, shuts itself off. While maintaining that there is a multiplicity of things that can take down the system, he said it going down 25 times as it did last year is unusual.“Normally, if you have a power system that goes down once every 25 years, it is a cause for concern. We had 25 in one year, so that is something that needs immediate attention. Aside from the entire system going down, because of the lack of redundancy in the network, there is no back up. If you take out a line for maintenance, you have outages because you don’t have a backup supply,” he added.PriorityGiven these issues, the new CEO said his first priority was to keep the lights on, but noted that all depended on the investment to make the necessary changes that were required to bring some normalcy to the system.He said, “There is a lot of immediate action that is needed to address the problems…Aside from that, about 50 megawatts of the generating capacity, which is just over 130 megawatts is very old and in need of replacement. So, they fail very regularly. We need to change that and many other things we have to do.”Meanwhile, Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson also announced plans to assist the company in its quest to improve its services and possibly loan the entity the required sum that is needed to assist with the strategic plans to bring some level of normalcy to the supply of electricity in Guyana.Patterson also noted that a new Board of Directors for GPL could be named in two weeks’ time as plans are already being made to have a list of the possible nominees submitted to Cabinet for consideration. According to the Minister, this could be taken to Cabinet as soon as next week.Meanwhile, this money now being sought by GPL from Government has already brought up discussions about the decision of Government to scrap the Amaila Falls project.Amaila Falls could have been almost operational by now and consumers could have been close to seeing the end to expensive and unreliable electricity. Guyana would have been entering into the ranks of the top 10 users of clean energy worldwide.The project, which would have been the largest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country’s history, had the potential to reintegrate the country with the global capital markets for the first time in over 40 years.