Good energy mix will give Guyana electricity reliability – Sam Hinds

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On the cusp of massive transformation, Guyana continues to grapple with unreliable power generation, but according to Guyana’s Ambassador-designate to the United States, Samuel Hinds, a good energy mix is needed in order for the country to enjoy a stable supply of electricity.

Hinds, a former President and Prime Minister of Guyana, is a Chemical Engineer by profession. During an exclusive interview with <<Guyana Times>> days before his departure on Sunday for Washington D.C., Hinds lauded the Irfaan Ali-led People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government for pursuing an energy-mix agenda to fix the electricity woes the country has been experiencing for decades.

According to Hinds, with the effect of climate change more visible now than ever, the switch to renewable energy is imperative. However, he cautioned that no one ‘clean energy’ option would suffice to meet the demands that Guyana has, and will have in the coming future as the country undergoes unprecedent development.

On this note, the Chemical Engineer contended that Guyana needs to establish a good energy mix for reliable electricity generation.

<<<Non-dispatchable sources>>>

The former Head of State explained that this mix of energy is particularly important, since many of the purely renewable sources are not dispatchable sources; that is, power generation facilities that send power to an electrical grid on demand.

“This means you take them as you get them. For example, with the last weeks of rain that we’ve had, I rather suspect that solar generation would have been cut by 50 per cent or so. So, you take them as you get them, and you study those things like spin/wind regimes and solar regimes. But then, with climate change now, and much wider and more frequent swings in weather, you can go weeks with very poor sunlight, and therefore solar is cut. So, you have to come up with a proper mix that would give you fair stability,” he posited.

Guyana’s Ambassador- designate to the US, Samuel Hinds

Currently, the Guyana Government has a massive solar power programme, and is receiving support from the Indian Government. In fact, the Guyana Energy Agency reported in April that the country saved some $488 million in energy cost with the installation of solar panels on Government buildings across the country over the past seven years. It also predicted that more than 39 megawatts of solar power are expected in three years’ time.

But Hinds argued that the storage capacity of solar power is still very costly and cannot be reliable. Apart from solar, other non-dispatchable fuel resources would include wind and hydro- generated electricity.

In fact, even though he praised the current PPP/C administration for going ahead with the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, Hinds pointed out that even this cannot be a solely reliable option, given the inconsistent weather patterns, which includes heavy rainfall as well as droughts.

The revival of the 165-megawatt Amaila Falls Hydropower Project was one of the promises made by the PPP/C in its manifesto. The project was initiated under the Bharrat Jagdeo-led PPP/C administration of which Hinds was the Prime Minister, but was scrapped by the APNU/AFC Coalition who had controlled the National Assembly by a one-seat Opposition majority under the Donald Ramotar-Hinds regime. Further, when it got into office following the 2015 elections, the APNU+AFC had gotten clearance from Norway to divert the monies that were initially set aside for Amaila Falls to fund a 100-megawatt solar energy project.

The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project was the flagship of Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) – the brainchild of Jagdeo.

Amaila was expected to deliver a steady source of clean, renewable energy that would have been affordable and reliable, and was envisioned to meet approximately 90 per cent of Guyana’s domestic energy needs while removing dependency on fossil fuels.

<<<Gas to shore>>>

However, with Guyana now being an oil producing nation, the current Government is pursuing a US$900 million gas-to-shore project – a game-changing initiative that would see gas from the Liza Field offshore Guyana being pumped onshore to generate power.

The main objective of the project is to transport sufficient gas from the Stabroek Block’s petroleum operations to supply some 200-250 megawatts of energy to the national grid by 2024, leading to a significant reduction in electricity costs.

President Ali had previously said the gas-to-shore pipeline, which would land at Crane, on the West Coast of Demerara (WCD), would lead to big industrial development taking place in Region Three that is linked to not only power generation and a planned power plant at Wales, West Bank Demerara.

Speaking on this project, Hinds threw his support behind this initiative, which he says bodes well for not just the country’s development, but also for protecting the environment.

“If [the oil production activities are] adding Co2 emissions in the air, one would want to minimise it and bring the gas to shore to use it, or using it there is good… As a chemical engineer, I would expect that they’re doing the optimum that can be done [with bringing gas to shore]. So, I’m very supportive of bringing the gas to shore,” Hinds asserted.

He went on to say that the option is also there for Guyana to even consider a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant on or offshore sometime in the future, if the resources are available.

Exxon has said that around 30 to 35 million cubic feet of natural gas would be required for the gas-to-shore project.

In previously-released data from Norwegian research company Rystad Energy, it was indicated that less than 20 per cent of the 1.8 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) discovered last year was gas. (First printed in the Guyana Times)