‘SN editorial was misinformed’

Dear Editor,

Your editorial ‘Low carbon economy?’ published on Monday, July 4, is grossly misplaced, misinformed and inaccurate. It’s a prime example of an editorial rush to judgment based on unfounded presumptions bereft of the facts.

It mixes up a large number of issues, but its central premise is that “…it is clear that the government is making little evident effort to construct a low carbon, clean energy economy…”

This conclusion is based on a bizarre reading of the fact that GPL is “installing additional fossilfuel based generators this year.”

You know well, and have already carried the news that, Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) will see the near-elimination of Guyana’s dependence on fossil fuel for electricity generation by 2015. Specifically:

• The Amaila Falls Hydro-Power project – which is one of the flagships of the LCDS – will deliver cheaper, more reliable, low carbon energy. It will enable Guyana to become the highest clean energy consumer per capita in the world – how does this square with your assertion that Guyana is not pursuing a low carbon path? Details about its role in delivering a low carbon future for Guyana are available at www.amailahydropower.com.

• The LCDS Hinterland Electrification Project, to commence in September, will result in 11,000 solar panels being distributed to previously unserved households. The electrification of these homes will provide citizens with access to energy for the first time. This will create new opportunities for tens of thousands of Guyanese, based on a low carbon energy source.

• The GuySuCo 30MW Skeldon bagasse co-generation plant will provide bio-fuel energy which will be linked to the national grid. This will add to the capacity provided by Amaila, and further contribute both to Guyana’s low carbon development and economic growth.

While these three key elements of the LCDS come on stream between now and 2015, any sensible assessment of Guyana’s immediate energy needs will recognize that GPL, in the short term, must respond to the current 7% increase in annual consumer demand for electricity, which is driven by the country’s continued, accelerating development, unless, of course, the Stabroek News prefers that the country be subject to the blackouts it is quick to complain of.

The Stabroek News is quick to point out the need for transparency on the part of government.

But this newspaper also has a responsibility to high standards of transparency and journalistic accuracy. This editorial shows a respect for neither.

Had the Stabroek News bothered to consult the information readily available on the websites of the Office of Climate Change, the Amaila Falls Hydropower project, the Office of the Prime Minister, Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), and GPL’s Development and Expansion Plan 2011-2015 – or even consulted its own back issues – it could not say that the government is not making serious efforts towards a low carbon economy.

Instead, a newspaper would acknowledge that the International Monetary Fund 2011 Review of Guyana’s economy gives full and unqualified recognition to the critical importance and value of the LCDS, noting that “the medium-term outlook for Guyana is positive given the authorities development agenda premised on the LCDS. Building on the favorable performance of the economy over the last five years the authorities are preserving and improving the gains of prudent macroeconomic management. According to staff, real GDP growth is expected to reach 4.8 percent in 2011 and to average 5.7 percent over 2012 to 2014.” The staff report illustrates that the growth impact of the Guyana-Norway deal on low carbon development will directly contribute to an increase of 0.4% in GDP growth on average.

It’s unfortunate that the Stabroek News should essay to attack the Low Carbon Development Strategy in such a hopelessly uninformed manner. While genuinely mistaken reporting may be forgiven on occasion, an editorial so misguided is inexcusable.

Yours faithfully,
Shyam Nokta
Office of Climate Change

Editor’s note
It would seem from Mr Nokta’s letter that the Low Carbon Development Strategy has been reduced to three projects: the Amaila Falls Hydro-Power Project, the Hinterland Electrification Project and the Skeldon bagasse project. The country needs no reminding of the Amaila project as it looms large with many outstanding questions about feasibility, financing, ownership and environmental repercussions right down to end user costs. Perhaps its impact on a low carbon economy will become clearer in time.

As admirable as the hinterland electrification project is there are valid concerns about whether this scheme has been properly conceptualized and whether the haste that attends it has to do with the impending elections.

Mr Nokta has not taken the opportunity to explain to the public how the government is trying to lower the carbon footprint through energy efficient homes, vehicles, trapping of methane from landfills, bio fuels, wind power, etc. These are only some of the elements that can integrate the entire country in the low carbon economy.

Mr Nokta also avoided any discussion of why diesel generators are the first option for GPL and the electrification of Leguan and Wakenaam.

He also did not venture an explanation as to whether Guyana is participating in The Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas.

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