GPL to shift focus on prosecution to stop $5B annual losses from electricity theft

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The Guyana Power and Light Incorporated (GPL)  will be looking at prosecution to deter persons from stealing electricity as the company incurs an annual loss of approximately $5 billion due to electricity theft.

At a press conference earlier today, Chief Executive Officer Bharrat Dindyal told reporters that this is an ongoing issue that the power company has spent billions to stop. Now, he noted, GPL will be focusing on prosecuting thieves.

“We recently resumed focus on prosecuting people for electricity theft. That is going to be a major focus next year. We have to reintroduce prosecution,” he contended.

According to Dindyal, there are currently some 15,000 illegal street lights. He noted too that they are also battling the fact that persons are hiring private personnel or even former GPL employees to tamper with their metres.

Another issue the power company is grappling with is going into communities where there is widespread electricity theft but persons there are willing to harm those would want to stop this practice.

However, the GPL Boss disclosed that the power company had brought in experts to assist with its loss reduction project which includes upgrading of the network and installing ‘sophisticated’ metres among other measures. That project costs some US$40 million.

“So, the experts who were here, they basically contended at the end that they have never come across a country quite like Guyana with electricity theft…it is an ongoing problem,” the GPL boss remarked.

“What we are doing is going to a place where the system is so sophisticated that we can sit down in office and see what you’re doing with the metre at home. We have that capability currently now in a pilot project in the heart of the city,” the CEO revealed.

Dindyal noted that there are currently 19,000 metres with the AMI (Advanced metering infrastructure) capability being installed as part of that pilot project.

But the GPL Boss posited that even the contractors they are hiring to carry out projects such as this are tampering with the metres before installing them.

“Right now, as we’re installing sophisticated metres costing about US$300 per metre, we’re seeing contractors vandalisming them in large numbers…,” he stated.

The CEO further explained that there is another strategy that is available to the company, that is, infrastructure that is designed to electrocute/kill persons who attempt to access power illegally. However, the company has been advised against this by legal experts.

“We would not wish to get to that,” he insisted.

Nevertheless, Dindyal stressed that there is nothing more the company can do in hardening its network against this illegal practice. But in the same breath, he contended that a change in attitude is what might be needed to counter electricity theft in Guyana.

“It is a huge problem and it calls for, I think, an across-the-board culture change… There is nothing we can do on our side. We have employed quiet coercion, we have done public education, we have appealed, we have brought technology. But what we don’t have is a change in attitude… It has to be done, I am thinking, by a combination of policing and quiet coercion,” the GPL Boss asserted.