127MW of ‘firm power’ installed by PPP/C Govt in 4 years – Finance Minister

Senior Minister Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh

Even as Government grapples to address the issues at the Guyana Power and Light (GPL) Incorporated, Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh has disclosed that no other administration has done more to enhance the state-own power company, which has seen an injection of some 127 megawatts of new capacity under the current People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) regime.

During a live broadcast on Saturday, Dr Singh conceded that the current spate of power outage is “unacceptable”, but assured that Government is working on bringing solutions to the citizens.

The minister recalled that when the PPP/C was returned to office in August 2020, that administration was met with an electricity sector that was “in total collapse”, with further dilapidated infrastructure at GPL and a system that was incapable of meeting the needs of the country.

The Wartsila engines at Garden of Eden

He outlined the interventions made by this current Administration, which started just a few months into its tenure. Under the instruction of President Dr Irfaan Ali, some 9.6MW of emergency power was installed at the Canefield, Onverwagt and Sophia substations within just four months of being in Government. Government also moved to ship in the 46.5MW of Wartsilla engines that were procured by the previous A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) regime, but were left stranded in Finland. These were brought in and installed at the Garden of Eden power plant in 2021.

“So, the 9.6 megawatts of emergency power, the 46.5 megawatts that were installed at Garden of Eden, the 28.9 megawatts that were installed at Columbia, the 6 megawatts that were installed at Onverwagt, in total gives us 91 megawatts of power that we have installed since we returned to office…,” he explained.

“[We’re acquiring] an additional 36 megawatts from a power ship… Once those 36 megawatts are brought online, which we anticipate to happen within the next three weeks, the People’s Progressive Party would have installed 127 megawatts – in the four years that we have been in office – of firm power onto the network,” Dr Singh posited.

An example of the floating power ships that would be coming to Guyana 

This power ship is being procured from a Qatari-based power company – UCC Holding – and will be connected to the national grid at Everton via the Berbice River. Moreover, another 33MW of capacity from solar power initiatives would also be plugged into the network in the future.

Amaila Falls Hydro project

But, according to the Finance Minister, these could have been significantly supplemented by the 165-megawatt Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP), which was shelved by the APNU/AFC Coalition.

“We would have had another 165 megawatts of power from Amaila currently supplying the network had the very APNU/AFC not derailed Amaila. Today, our national grid would have been getting another 165 megawatts of power,” he argued.

The AFHP, a brainchild of the previous PPP/C Administration, has been on the cards since 2011, but the APNU and the AFC Opposition parties, having a one-seat majority in 2014, barred the project from becoming a reality, and then shelved it when they subsequently took office as a Coalition.

An artist’s impression of the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project

However, the resuscitation of the project was one of the PPP/C 2020 Election Manifesto promises, and in 2021, the current Government engaged China Railway Group Limited to construct the hydro project. However, those discussions ended in a deadlock when the company wanted to change the model.

According to reports, the company was unable to secure the necessary financing under a build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model, thus it requested that the contract be changed to an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) model – which was rejected by the Government.

Then in October 2023, the Request for Proposals (RFP) for the construction of the Amaila Falls Hydro Project under the BOOT model was relaunched. Four companies – Rialma S.A. (Grupo Rialma) from Brazil; China International Water & Elec. Corp; Lindsayca CH4 Guyana Inc., and a group made up of OEC, GE Vernova and Worley – had submitted tenders to be prequalified for the project. The Government has since been evaluating the proposals received.

No alternatives 

Minister Singh’s remarks on Saturday come on the heels of criticisms by the APNU/AFC Opposition over the recent heightened power outages across the country. GPL has blamed the situation on engine failures at different locations. At least two engines are currently down.

Guyana Power and Light Head Office on Main Street, Georgetown

However, Dr Singh has argued that the Coalition regime failed to enhance the capacity of the national grid during its five-year tenure in office. He said they did not invest in new generating capability, adequately invest and maintain the engines, or upgrade the aged infrastructure and equipment in the local power sector.

He noted that a mere 17.2MW of generating capability was installed by the Coalition Administration between 2015 and 2020. Of this amount, only a mere 8.7MW was added to the Demerara Berbice Interconnected System (DBIS) – the country’s main power grid during this period.

“So, not only did they [Coalition] derail Amaila using their one-seat majority during the 2011 to 2015 period; not only did they derail Amaila [during their tenure in office from 2015 to 2020]; but they also failed to offer an alternative.”

“Where is the alternative that the APNU/AFC offered to address the reality that demand is growing? Where is the alternative? They spent five years in office and installed barely 8 megawatts – just over 8 megawatts of power to the DBIS. Where is the Amaila alternative that APNU/AFC was offering and would’ve offered to the people of Guyana,” Dr Singh questioned.

A depiction of the Gas-to-Energy Project at Wales

Nevertheless, the PPP/C Government is pursuing the hydropower project, and this will be bolstered by its flagship Gas-to-Energy project, which includes a 300-megawatt power plant and a Natural Gas Liquids (NGL) facility at Wales, West Bank Demerara, utilising natural gas that will be a pipeline from oil production activities in the Stabroek Block Offshore Guyana.

The power plant is expected to come on stream by March 2025, adding 228MW of capacity to the national grid in the first instance, and the remaining power would be installed by next year’s end.