The deputy managing director of the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC), Mr. Nani Juwara, on Wednesday June 6, said Gambians will see difference in the provision of electricity in the coming weeks and months. Mr. Juwara made this statement when he took journalists on a conducted tour of Kotu power plant.
Mr. Juwara admitted the current problems that has sent the country into darkness, but urged customers to exercise patience because of his optimism that their short term plans to address the situation, will soon work.
"We have a number of short term plans to be able to address this current power shortage which include a number of rehabilitation that are on-going. The generator (G7) has already been rehabilitated and it is in a test run which will be completed hopefully this week and it will be available for commercial operation. This will be a relief because we will be able to supply more people," he said.
Mr. Juwara said the replacement for G8 is also on the way coming which was purchased through funding from the World Bank. He said the said engine is expected in the country in August this year but taking the installation period into consideration, it will take up to October before it is ready for commercial operation.
He said they have also secured a contract with the World Bank and they are in negotiation phase; that this will see them replace one of their biggest generators that developed a mechanical breakdown in 2016, with a new engine. According to him, this negotiation is not conclusive yet. He expressed hope that this negotiation could be conclusive before the end of June. He said if the negotiation goes through, they expect this engine to be operational in the next 6 months.
"Our operations are capital extensive which is a very expensive business. To get a new 6 megawatt generator engine, will cost nothing more than 50 million US Dollars. NAWEC doesn't have these resources. Nonetheless, the effort we are making is to rehabilitate the generators that are down now", said Mr. Juwara.
He argued that energy business is so expensive that there is no quick fix as a solution. He said even where as quick fix is available, it has huge financial implications.
"If you look at the size of our economy, even the government alone could not do it, much more NAWEC. On a monthly basis, Gambians will see difference. Before the end of this week, the test on the G7 will be done. G6 which is under protective maintenance will also 'be done' in 1 or 2 weeks' time, it should be available for commercial operation. The country is dark and this is even affecting our revenue. I appeal to the customers to be patient and keep calm. Energy business is an expensive business. The situation has been inherited. All what we have been doing in this country was 'fire fighting', which never solve the problems. It just basically addresses the current situation but the same situation will repeat itself and this is what we want to avoid. We want to work with our partners and the private sector, as NAWEC and government alone cannot do this business," he admitted.
Meanwhile, Baboucarr Faal, NAWEC Power Generation Director, said the demand is always higher than what they can produce as their generation capacity is below demand. He admitted that the power situation is bad but his department is doing everything possible to meet the demand of electricity.
"The situation has been like this since Independence and we had never met the demand at any given time as we are always in a catch up situation, whereby we try to cope with the demand. NAWEC alone cannot do it but government through bilateral partnership, can make things work," Mr. Juwara said.
He said they will engage their partners to support them by bringing more projects in relation to power generation. He said there is a new project of 11 megawatts which is at an advanced stage with its engine and other equipment already available. He said by the end of this month that plant will be ready and running.
"The bottom line of this whole problem is that once you don't reserve the machines you are using, then you will always tend to have problems of this nature. There is no 'reserved generator'. Right now in Kotu we have 2 machines that are working," said Mr. Faal.
He said all the generators that are installed currently, were brought as second hand machines. He said since their installation, some of them have been operating for more than ten years while others for 25 years.
"To maintain aging machines of this size is very difficult and it is not only time consuming but resource consuming too. We appeal to people to be more patient with us. It needs adequate resources and we know that NAWEC does not have that kind of resources to make electricity supply constant and stable," he concluded.