Consultants raised questions about the water flows at Amaila

Dear Editor,

I had hoped, vainly it seems, that the government and the hydroelectric power team led by Mr Winston Brassington would take the necessary steps to address the country’s energy situation and GPL’s losses following Sithe’s withdrawal from the Amaila Falls project. Instead Mr Brassington continues to create his own realities and enemies. The latest case of this is his response through NICIL, to public concerns over the findings of the recently released 2009-10 Economic and Financial Evaluation Study done by Mercados Energeticos of Argentina in connection with the water flows at Amaila. Mercados reported on the possibility of low or no power from Amaila during the eight months dry spell each year.

NICIL responded that:

i) “A multiplicity of comprehensive and extensive evaluations of the hydrological conditions of the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project site has been carried out by a number of international engineering firms”; and
ii) “All the findings create a sound basis for the hydropower potential of the Project and reaffirms the Project’s acceptable hydrology risk to the Government of Guyana, thus, setting the stage for the outlook of reliable, stable and a dependable energy source for the people of Guyana.”
These can hardly be described as even half-true. Let us examine the “multiplicity of comprehensive and extensive evaluations” and pose some questions to Mr Brassington.
1. That Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH) did an analysis in 2001 of historical rainfall and river-flow measurements from several locations in the region of the project.
(a) Would Mr Brassington confirm or deny that one year following MWH, Kaehne Consulting Limited, the Canadian consultants contracted by the Government of Guyana, raised concerns that “the developers have based the project viability mostly on data collected in an adjacent water shed (Kaieteur) and the Amaila/ Kuribrong River basin hydrology has been inferred from this. At no stage have concurrent hydrological data been collected to verify the relationship between the two water basins.”
(b) Is Mr Brassington suggesting that the government did not advise Kaehne of the MWH report even after the serious and emphatic statement by Kaehne in the preceding paragraph?
(c) Was Kaehne’s recommendation that a “permanent station be set up at the base of Amaila Falls and should record daily stream flow volumes from now until such time as flow is curtailed as reservoir filling occurs,” acted upon?
(d) If this was done, was it done by Synergy, the licensee, and are the findings available?
(e) Could Mr Brassington confirm that Mercados in their 2009-10 study reported that the hydrology study done by MWH encountered some difficulties due to lack of direct hydrological data at the project site?

2. That in 2008, “an update review of the hydrological study review done by MWH was completed to assess the validity of the monthly flow estimation for the project site.”

In view of the intended or accidental ambiguity of this language would Mr Brassington provide the name of the consultant who did the update review.
3. The Mercados Report of 2009-10
(a) Can Mr Brassington state why NICIL’s statement was silent on the Mercados study which was commissioned by the government and Sithe?
(b) Is it because Mercados found that the design of Amaila Falls Project encountered several problems arising from the lack of hydrologic data including:
•  uncertainty regarding the expected power generation?
•  uncertainty as regards the maximum flow adopted for the design?
(c) Or that Mercados recommended that in order to obtain more accurate information, it would be desirable to install a hydro-meteorological station in a section of the river that is representative of the project?
(d) Or that it concluded that in wet months (June to September), more power can be generated and demand is covered. And in months with low hydraulicity, there is a deficit in power generation and demand is only partially covered?

While it is not unusual for public servants to spin data from time to time, it is unacceptable when that spinning involves a project costing at least US$900 million and affecting the entire economy and consumers and taxpayers. Mr Brassington ought not to be allowed to continue getting away with this pattern of behaviour.

I have privately and regularly pleaded with him to concentrate on his chairmanship and responsibilities at the GPL. Billions of dollars in fuel savings and the reduction of subsidies did not have to wait on Amaila but are within the grasp of the board and management of GPL.

Yours faithfully,
Christopher Ram

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