Former Industry and Commerce Minister Irfaan Ali says that the Government should seek to invest in building a cleaner and more efficient energy system that will trickle down to the benefit of consumers, which will have a long lasting effect instead of pumping millions of dollars in the Guyana Power and Light Company which is still facing a myriad of complex issues that have compromised the entity’s reliability and overall financial performance.
Ali said that any attempt to give GPL any bail out or millions more of taxpayers monies must be guided by a more strategic and robust programme that could be worked out to reduce its burdensome technical and non-technical losses. He nonetheless stressed the GPL’s need to pursue cleaner and more renewable forms of energy as he touted the shelved Amaila Falls Hydro-Power Project as the best option for getting the company to deliver more stable and reliable electricity thereby bringing an end to the constant power outages and load shedding.
Ali also contended that the matter involving GPL now seeking US$110 million to assist with an overhaul of their system, points to the bad decision made by Government to abandon the Amaila Falls Hydro Project.
“The Amaila Falls Hydro Project was a long-term solution to our energy requirement in a sustainable and cost-effective manner. By today we would have been enjoying power from Amaila Falls, we would have been enjoying it at much less or far less the cost that consumers are paying today,” he opined.
However, Ali said the coalition Government abandoned that very project without any plans as to how they will sustain the energy climate for the country. The former Minister said the main objective right now should be to looking at a long-term solution to the country’s energy problem, to ensure that energy is also generated in a sustainable, cost-effective manner and one that will bring benefit to the consumer.
“Pumping money into GPL will not allow it, but the Government should therefore rethink its strategy and rethink its position on the Amaila Falls Hydro Project… Any investment should be able to equip us of our capability for energy to be generated in a sustainable way,” he opined.
One of the greatest challenges facing this sector is the growing demand on the system. However, the current capacity has not grown to meet that demand. “They’ve also seen a retrograde in terms of reliability of power and if you look at for example what is going on with blackouts and so on, it is far worse today than when we had the contract with Wärtsillä,” he added.
The Government had moved away from the Wärtsillä support mechanism with the promise that black out will be a thing of the past and the system would have been far more efficient. However, the Opposition MP pointed out that the system today is far more inefficient and a lot of maintenance is due. Also, the cost of energy has not gone down and the supply cannot meet the demand.
Importantly also, Ali said based on the marked reduction in fuel between 2014 and 2016, this could have resulted in a surplus position of GPL. He said if this is the case, the power company needs to say how much that surplus was for each year and what they did with the surplus. “Because when the price for fuel came down there was no adjustment to the cost of electricity to the consumer,” he recalled.
The Opposition has long called for the reintroduction of the Amaila Falls Hydro Project for a number of important reasons. Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo said not only does the scrapping of the project threaten the forest pact agreement with the Kingdom of Norway, which could cause the country to lose out on another US$3 billion in savings, but it could assist Guyana to combat climate change.