Letter: The Amaila Falls Hydro Project is vital to Guyana’s development

An artist’s impression of the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project dam

Dear Editor,

This is good news indeed. It is that “Head of State, President Irfaan, Ali last week, declared that despite the hiccups, Government was not going to abandon the project (that is the Amaila Falls Hydro Project-AFHP).” The timely pronouncement came as he was speaking during a critical briefing held at State House. According to the President, the project is currently undergoing a process (and rightly so) but he was most firm, detailing that “… we are not going to abandon this project, if we have to go out again and again, we will”. And why not?

First, I care little for the logistics and minutiae of the Amaila Falls Hydro Project (AFHP), since for me, what is vital is that Guyana simply move ahead and realise this long-overdue ambition. It is most necessary from a financial aspect, and of course, in terms of being the climate and environmentally wise, it is the way to go. I back up to December 2016, as many of us seem to forget too conveniently. Back then, the independent assessment of the Amaila Falls Hydropower Project (AFHP) did reveal that the only realistic path for Guyana moving towards an emission-free electricity sector is by developing its hydropower potential and the fastest way forward is to maintain the AFHP.

The report, compiled by Norconsult, an engineering and design consultancy firm out of Norway, and which was contracted by the Government of Norway, detailed an “objective and facts-based” assessment of the project on the agreement of the two Governments and made some telling statements.

Essentially, the go-ahead is unambiguous, and that was way back in 2016. Part of the statement says that “It is our opinion that BOOT (Build, Own, Operate, Transfer) type public-private partnership model should be maintained for the project implementation. An internationally well-merited investor and operator in the hydropower industry should be invited to take the majority position and the driving seat (main sponsor) in the project company. So, irrespective of the means of accomplishing the AFHP, the bottom line is that Guyana must not stall for too long.

Secondly, when it is all said and done, Guyana will be supplied with electricity “at a cost not exceeding US$0.07737 per kWh, as against what currently obtains, which is also largely fossil fuel-based, at $0.32 per kWh. This must not go on. We also know that power is not stable in many areas, and the current high cost of electricity continues to affect operating performance for businesses and is a major challenge to the productive sector, as profitability is severely compromised.

My hope is that the opposition and sceptics will be unbiased and quit playing politics. The well-being of all Guyanese is far too important and our leaders must be candid when it comes to the overall betterment of the country.

Yes, Guyana has oil, and even this emerging oil and gas sector is being lambasted. I remind all that renewable energy is growing rapidly around the world, but fossil fuels still make up a majority of the world’s energy use. So, Guyana has to be very prudent. In 2017, 81 per cent of the energy the world consumed as oil, coal, and natural gas.

According to the Global Material Flow Database developed by the UN Environment Programme, three countries use more fossil fuels than the rest of the world combined: China, the United States and India. Together, these countries consume 54 per cent of the world’s fossil fuels by weight. So, the capacity for renewable energy is enormous, and I repeat, that Guyana must think ahead.

In closing, even if Guyana has to shift from the BOOT contract to an EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction) one, it devolves to the Government’s lead in having to secure the finances for the project, then so be it. It is the end result that matters, both locally and globally. Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo summed it up succinctly, stating the preference and that “… if we can’t get it done under the BOOT, we will have to retender…” as “it was not a case of the Chinese not being in favour of a BOOT arrangement…” but rather it is that “they simply can’t raise the financing, because of that”.

Yours truly,
H Singh