The WRB Enterprise partnership with GRENLEC is now 20 years old and the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Robert Blanchard is very proud of the association.
For the entire month of October, GRENLEC will be acknowledging its 20th anniversary of serving the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.
The island’s sole electricity generating company came into existence in 1960 and became a wholly owned government entity during the 1979-83 rule of the left-leaning People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG).
WRB, a Tampa-based company, became the major shareholder in 1994 when the then National Democratic Congress (NDC) government of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite decided to sell the majority of the shares to the private sector.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference held at the Public Workers Union building in Tanteen, Blanchard said that significant achievements have been made since and he outlined some of them.
According to Blanchard, WRB is very proud to have been chosen as GRENLEC’s strategic partner.
“The partnership process didn’t include just WRB and WRB was chosen as the lead partner. The privatization process also included the offering of shares to local and regional investors and today GRENLEC has around 1800 shareholders of which WRB is just one and we’re proud of that …” he said.
“…We’re proud that when we have our annual meeting once a year, our shareholders show up and they ask questions, they care about the company and they have invested their hard earned money and are proud to see it succeed,” he added.
Describing GRENLEC as a truly public/private sector partnership, Blanchard notes that the government of Grenada owns 10% of the shares and the state-run National Insurance Scheme (NIS) another 12%.
He pointed out that the two concerns “are large partners in this process and we couldn’t be here today without them and we look forward to working with them as we go forward in the future”.
The current Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP), which has formed the government of Grenada for most of the 20 years of WRP’s partnership with GRENLEC, has been extremely critical of the manner of the sale of the shares under Congress.
The regime has often dropped hints that it would like to buy back the shares held by WRB.
Chairman Blanchard told reporters that one of the major achievements of the advent of WRP is that it helped GRENLEC to literally do away with the many power outages that affected the company when it was under the direct control of government.
“…Outages today are rare, they do happen and we apologise when they happen but I think all would have to admit they are much rarer than they were 20 years ago,” he remarked.
During the 1984-90 rule of the NNP when the late H.A Blaize was Prime Minister and Dr. Mitchell served as Minister of Communications and Works, the state spent millions of dollars on the purchase of a generator for GRENLEC that never worked.
This wastage of state funds was highlighted by a Commission of Inquiry that was done into the affairs of GRENLEC and its government-appointed Board of Directors that was headed by Denis Campbell, a close cousin of current PM Mitchell.
A confident looking Blanchard stressed that the technology that was introduced on the GRENLEC distribution grids enabled the company to ensure that outages are taken care of quickly.
“It enables our operators who are on staff 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to locate calls quickly, to dispatch crews who are also on staff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to get outages when they do happen, to get it repaired quickly and we have a very highly dedicated team that focuses on that and that’s one of the reasons why the outages are so low,” he said.
Blanchard noted that there are re-closure switches and other technical items on the grid that enables the utility company to deal quickly with faults that occur and to minimise the impact they have on the rest of the country.
According to the Chairman, he is extremely proud of the fact that GRENLEC has one of the top-flight utility plants in the region.
“We rebuild much of the distribution systems, we implemented live line work so that crews can work on certain jobs without impacting customers…”, he said.
“…We also put great emphasis on reducing the line losses for which (the) company will spend a lot of money on fuel for which we got no benefit. Those were over 12% in 1994, they are below 8% today which again is one of the tops in the region,” he remarked.
Blanchard announced that the intention of WRB as the majority shareholder of GRENLEC is to improve and increase the use of technology in all areas of operations, as well as to improve service, standards and efficiency.
“We’ve computerised most of the major operating functions and that process even continues today and if you think back to what customer records look like in our office in 1994 compared to what they look like today, it’s a vast improvement and that enables us to serve our customers better, faster and hopefully, they appreciate that higher level of service today”.
“…We’ve invested greatly in our human resources and I think GRENLEC staff is very strong, very well motivated and works very hard to deliver a level of service to our customers, (we) have an employee assistance programme to deal with those issues when they arise and a health and safety programme for all employees.
“Sometimes when we’re in the power station and other areas we’ll see signs up there for times without loss time accidents, days without loss times accidents. We have a tremendous safety record here and one that we’re very proud of.
WRB has reportedly invested over $150 million dollars in 20 years in GRENLEC and Blanchard said it is committed to continually investing in the country.