Guyana needs to diversify its energy sources

Dear Editor,

Aside from providing Guyana with a cheap, clean source of electricity, the question on every everyone’s mind seems to be is the Amaila Falls Hydroelectricity Project viable? There are two camps. The pros say it is and the cons say it is not. It all depends on your point of view.

Let’s face it. Amaila Falls is about saving hard-earned foreign currency which is being spent on imported oil and about reducing the price of electricity in Guyana so that manufacturing can take off creating thousands of jobs. But, at what cost ask the cons?

The pros seem to be focusing on the savings that they envisage the Amaila project would make over time and about the number of jobs the manufacturing industry would create ‒ which is looking to the future. Whereas, the cons seem to be focused on the actual cost and the amount the investor makes.

Who cares how much the investor (IDB and Sithe Global), make? They are the investors, they are taking the risk. So, they should be rewarded for their efforts. What Guyanese care about is the actual amount it saves Guyanese in their electricity bills (reported to be in the region of 40%). And, how much foreign currency it saves Guyana over the life of the hydroelectric dam (around 75 years).

One can argue that the assumption the cons make is that the price of oil will remain static when in fact it is likely to rise because India, Africa and China are becoming more developed. The pros and cons need to understand that no matter how much planning you do nothing in life is certain. Certainly in the business world nothing is certain. We could build the Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project only to find out that it does not live up to expectations or we may not build Amaila Falls Hydroelectric Project only to find that the oil price continues to rise leaving us with huge oil import bills.

On the other hand, the effect of shale oil (which America is pursuing to become less dependent on the Middle East) may cause a collapse in the oil price. This is what the pros ignore in their arguments.

So, the question remains whether the Amaila project is viable. I suggest that we have another feasibility study done by a company that has actually built a hydroelectric project to get a better understanding of cost. Preferably not the Chinese. Then, build Amaila. This is because the electricity consumption in Guyana is rising so we will need more electricity anyway. We need to diversify our energy sources so we are not reliant on just oil for electricity. We are really asking for trouble by just relying on oil.

I find David Granger’s response to the Americans when he said he was a patriot and the Americans just had their own interest at heart a lame excuse for not supporting the AFHP because if this was the case then they would never have given us a huge debt reduction when we were HIPC. Then there is the argument that the APNU were not properly consulted by the governing PPP/C. Another lame excuse. The APNU were consulted with regard to the phased increase in electricity prices in Linden and what happened? An agreement was reached then APNU/PNC backpedalled on the agreement. So you see consultation does not necessarily mean agreement.

There is no denying that hydroelectricity is both a cheap and clean source of energy.

Yours faithfully,
Sean McLean