By DALE LUMA
THE country has a choice: Continue to live with more power blackouts or invest “hundreds of millions of (US) dollars” to reform the country’s power supply system.
The choice was laid out on the table yesterday by PNG Power Ltd managing director Flagon Bekker, who took up the position just two months ago.
“I personally believe the people of PNG are going to need to choose: start investing in the power system or live with blackouts that will get worse and worse,” he told The National.
“There is no easy answer here.”
He said the “hundreds of millions of US dollars” sounded like a lot of money “but we can do this as a business, without additional cost to the taxpayers if the PPL is allowed to reform”.
“If we can become more of a commercially-driven business with less social responsibilities (for example) not related to making, transmitting, distributing and selling electricity, it will help,” Brekker said.
He said another way consumers could help PNG Power was to pay their bills on time every month.
“We can then use this money for equipment and projects we need to refurbish, repair and rebuild our power system, networks and technologies,” he said.
“Without cash in the bank, we simply cannot buy spare parts or stock emergency items, or do planned maintenance.”
Bekker, who arrived from Perth in Western Australia with a 20-year experience working in the energy and industrial sector in various countries, said the Government was behind the company’s plans.
But it is hard to secure funding as there is “tremendous demand” for the funds the State has.
“We understand that. We are working with the (departments of) Treasury, Finance to find a way to fund the working capital and capital investment needed to make the grid work better for our customers,” he said.
“We are going to need to work together, prioritise this most essential of essential services for the future of our children.
“That is the way to look at it, I think.”
Bekker said PNG Power was not spending enough on the planned maintenance of its assets due to cash flow issues.
“The demands comes from many sources including social costs that a normal business (in the commercial space) does not have to carry,” he said.
“This is also partly due to our structure which we are addressing in our Refocus Initiative, (and) to funding shortfalls.
“We are working on options to bring capital into the business.
“We are reviewing all options to do this but always based on the best value for the people of Papua New Guinea.”
By DALE LUMA