Govt tapping into US$80M earmarked for Amaila to fund 100MW solar farms

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…Opposition Leader says Govt only trying to unlock what the PPP has already left

Opposition Leader, Dr Bharrat Jagdeo is of the opinion that the only purpose of Government’s trip to Oslo to meet with the Norway Administration was to get permission to utilize the US$80M which the International Development Bank (IDB) is currently holding from the 2009 Norway Forest Protection Deal.

Opposition leader Dr Bharrat Jagdeo

“It seems as though, the only purpose of this trip was to try to get the $80M that we earned- and it’s in a bank account- permission from Norway to spend that money and this is so typical coming from this Government,” he told media operatives during a press conference at his Church Street office on Thursday.

According to the Opposition Leader, “the gentleman from Norway was saying, you have to show us how you’re going to get there consists with the agreement on the LCDS…He said this must be done through a public policy document with a formal status. Now, this is quite clear. A public policy document with a formal status, so what did our government take to Norway as a public policy document with a formal status? It cannot be the Green State Strategy because that is still in it’s conceptual phase. Right now it’s just decorative statements. It’s a political strategy. It has no formal approval by the National Assembly. The Green State Strategy has had no widespread consultations and these were safeguards placed in the Norwegian agreement.”

Jagdeo also accused the APNU-AFC administration of being small minded, and piggy backing on the projects left by the People’s Progressive Party (PPP).

“Nothing new conceptually, only trying to unlock what the PPP has already left- East Coast road, West Coast road, the by-pass, almost everything. The Airport is their flagship project now” he said.

Norway, since 2009 had supported the Amaila Falls Project, depositing US$80 million in the IDB, earmarked for Guyana’s equity share in Amaila Falls Hydropower Inc, a Special Purpose Company for realising the project.

But in December 2015, Government announced that the US$80 million could go to other energy initiatives in the event that the project does not go ahead.

Minister of State, Joseph Harmon

State Minister, Joseph Harmon on Thursday confirmed that permission has been granted for the sum to be utilized by Government, following a meeting with Norwegian authorities.

“We have been now given the green light [so] that the US$80M dollars can be utilized for solar energy,” he disclosed to media operatives during a Post Cabinet press briefing.

He also noted that while Government is still embracing Hydro-electricity, they will not be proceeding with the Amaila Falls project unless a private investor takes up the responsibility.

Nevertheless, Harmon explained that there are several  projects which have already been approved and as such, will be utilizing the funds through the solar arrangement, once it is released.

“The solar arrangement will see us doing a couple of things. In the first year after we are able to sort out the finances and move the money around, that we are going to see a 15 per cent displacement of our relying on fossil fuel in the first year. Between the second and the third year, the projection is to move from 50 per cent displacement of us relying on fossil fuel. That is going to make a major change in so far as our finances are concerned.” Harmon explained while outlining that generators will still be kept as backups “but our frontline arrangement will be solar.”

The State Minister also indicated that Government also intends to locate solar farms capable of producing 100MW of power close to Guyana Power and Light (GPL) substations so “that they could be linked into the grid.”

“The move to now go to solar is driven by the fact that it is much cheaper, the cost of solar energy is going down,” he explained.

Harmon said that discussions will be held with the IDB and the World Bank at a later date, so as to establish how fast the monies can be released.

“We already have proposals for the expenditure of these funds” Harmon said.

The Amaila Falls Hydropower Project, which started under the previous Administration, was the flagship project of the five-year forest protection partnership.

Guyana was expected to earn up to US$250 million in performance-based payments based on an independent verification of deforestation and forest degradation rates and progress on REDD+ enabling activities.

REDD+ is a global initiative that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

Norway had transferred US$80 million to the IDB for the project, but when the APNU/AFC Government took office, it said that proceeding with the Amaila project would be irresponsible.

Norway had urged the Government to consider the merits of the project, as Guyana stood to lose the US$80 million earmarked if it failed to come up with a plan for transformational renewable energy sources that can be realised in the next few years, hence a review of the project was conducted.

Government had contended that the report validated their stance that Amaila is not the best option.

However, the actual report had in fact indicated Norconsult –who completed the report- favoured the immediate execution of the project.

According to the report, the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project is the only realistic path for Guyana moving towards an emission-free electricity sector, by developing its hydropower potential and the fastest way forward is to maintain AFHP.

It also outlined that the first needed step for revitalising the project is a decision by the Government to maintain AFHP as the priority project in the transition to a green generation regime, as recommended in the “Initial Study on System Expansion of the Generation & Transmission System” of 2014, and reiterated and embraced by Government in “Guyana’s Power Generation System Study” of June 2016.

In what is described as the largest retrenchment by a private or public corporation in recent history, state owned GuySuCo as part of its plans to restructure the sugar industry has dismissed in excess of 4500 sugar workers from various estates. 

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